Maintenance of homeostasis of inner ear fluids and biochemical integrity of inner ear tissue are essential for proper functioning of the auditory and vestibular end organs. Although various regulatory mechanisms exist in a different portion of the labyrinth, the inner ear is known to respond to systemic challenges. The association of Meniere's syndrome with an imbalance of inner ear fluid homeostasis has been hypothesized for the past century. Among many factors, the effects of hormonal imbalance on inner ear fluid composition and inner ear function have however scarcely been studied. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between the autonomic nervous system and inner ear function and possible mechanisms of functional disturbances in an experimental condition. An infusion of supraphysiologic amounts of epinephrine, a stress related hormone, resulted in an elevation of osmolality in serum and perilymph. Furthermore, the infusion of epinephrine resulted in elevation of threshold, prolongation of latency, and depression of amplitude in the compound action potential of the auditory nerve. These findings were most marked at high frequencies. We hypothesized that the epinephrine-induced hearing loss was brought about by an increase in perilymphatic osmolality, as well as by the ionic imbalance caused by the osmotic gradient. Since emotional stress has been implicated as a mechanism of inducing a Meniere's attack, evaluation of the relationship between the autonomic system and cochlear function may contribute to the understanding of possible mechanisms of inner ear dysfunction caused by hormonal imbalances.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors are grateful for the excellent technical assistance of Christopher Lees. This work was supported in part by an R & D fund from Pharmacia AB, Uppsala, Sweden.
- Inner ear fluids
- Meniere's disease