Amplification lags nonlinearity in the recovery from reduced endocochlear potential
The mammalian hearing organ, the cochlea, contains an active amplifier to boost the vibrational response to low level sounds. Hallmarks of this active process are sharp location-dependent frequency tuning and compressive nonlinearity over a wide stimulus range. The amplifier relies on outer hair cell (OHC) generated forces driven in part by the endocochlear potential (EP), the ≈ +80 mV potential maintained in scala media, generated by the stria vascularis. We transiently eliminated the EP in
... o by an intravenous injection of furosemide and measured the vibrations of different layers in the cochlea's organ of Corti using optical coherence tomography. Distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE) were monitored at the same times. Following the injection, the vibrations of the basilar membrane lost the best frequency (BF) peak and showed broad tuning similar to a passive cochlea. The intra-organ of Corti vibrations measured in the region of the OHCs lost their BF peak and showed low-pass responses, but retained nonlinearity, indicating that OHC electromotility was still operational. Thus, while electromotility is presumably necessary for amplification, its presence is not sufficient for amplification. The BF peak recovered nearly fully within 2 hours, along with a non-monotonic DPOAE recovery that suggests that physical shifts in operating condition are a final step in the recovery process.