An apparently unique form of cochlear damage was produced in guinea pigs by perfusing the cochlea or injecting the cerebrospinal fluid with bacterial endotoxin. This developed rapidly (within two hours) and was characterised by swelling of the tectorial membrane and damage to both inner and outer hair cells, with parallel functional damage demonstrable electrophysiologically. All these changes could be attenuated by pretreatment with dexamethasone. Such endotoxin mediated lesions may be the mechanism by which hearing loss occurs in bacterial meningitis.
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