The possible cochlear toxicity of systemically applied macrolides - erythromycin (ER), azithromycin (AZ) and clarithromycin(CL) - was investigated in guinea pigs by measuring transiently evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs). A single dose of 125 mg/kg intravenous (i.v.) ER caused no change in TEOAEs in guinea pigs (p>0.05), whereas AZ (45 mg/kg orally) and CL (75 mg/kg i.v.) reversibly reduced the emission response (p<0.05). The reversible reduction of TEOAE responses due to AZ and CL, which is in accordance with the clinical picture of AZ and CL ototoxicity, could likely be attributable to the transient dysfunction of outer hair cells. The present study reveals that at least one ototoxic effect of AZ and CL is on the inner ear. The results may also encourage planning clinical researches on TEOAE monitoring in patients receiving high doses of AZ or CL.