Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 June 2007
Changes in ciliary interconnections in the organ of Corti are described after acoustic overstimulation using a special high resolution scanning electron microscope and tannic acid-osmium staining technique, giving an almost three dimensional view. Guinea pigs were exposed to a 3.85 kHz pure tone at an intensity of 120 dB for 22.5 minutes. The first detectable change was a disarrangement of the cilia with a loosening of the interconnections. The ciliary plasma membrane presented with an abnormally smooth appearance. The tip links connecting the tips of the stereocilia to their taller neighbours were also affected showing elongation or even disappearance. The fine granules which cover the tips of the tallest stereocilia of the outer hair cells were decreased. These findings suggest that acoustic overstimulation may affect the carbohydrate metabolism exceding to degeneration of ciliary interconnections resulting in a disarrangement and detachment of cilia. The tip links, which may participate in sensory cell transduction, seem also to be affected by acoustic overstimulation.