Recent studies in the bird ear have shown that degenerated hair cells are sometimes replaced by regenerated receptor cells. The present study evaluated the adult mammalian cochlea for evidence of hair-cell and nerve-fiber regeneration. Eighty-eight noise-damaged chinchilla cochleas were examined as plastic-embedded whole mounts by phase-contrast and bright-field microscopy. No signs of hair-cell regeneration were found. However, 32 (70%) of 46 cochleas damaged by high-intensity noise and 20 (48%) of 42 cochleas damaged by moderate-intensity noise contained a variable number of nerve fibers which appeared to be regenerated. These fibers, which were located in severely damaged areas of organ of Corti, differed from residual fibers with respect to their diameters, the degree and pattern of myelination, and by the abnormal paths they followed within the osseous spiral lamina and on the basilar membrane. The number of regenerated fibers varied with type of exposure and length of recovery. The strongest response was found in ears exposed to a high-intensity, low-frequency noise. The results described here indicate that a potential exists for the biological restoration of the mammalian inner ear.