Trauma to the inner ear in birds, due to acoustic overstimulation or ototoxic aminoglycosides, can lead to hair cell loss which is followed by regeneration of new hair cells. These processes are paralleled by hearing loss followed by significant functional recovery. After acoustic trauma, functional recovery is rapid and nearly complete. The early and major part of functional recovery after sound trauma occurs before regenerated hair cells become functional. Even very intense sound trauma causes loss of only a proportion of the hair cell popu- lation, mainly so-called short hair cells residing on the abneural mobile part of the avian basilar membrane. Uncoupling of the tectorial membrane from the hair cells during sound overexposure may serve as a protection mechanism. The rapid functional recovery after sound trauma appears not to be associated with regeneration of the lost hair cells, but with repair processes involving the surviving hair cells. Small residual functional deficits after recovery are most likely associated with the missing upper fibrous layer of the tectorial membrane which fails to regenerate after sound trauma. After aminoglycoside trauma, functional recovery is slower and parallels the structural regeneration more closely. Aminoglycosides cause damage to both types of hair cells, starting at the basal (high frequency) part of the basilar papilla. However, functional hearing loss and recovery also occur at lower frequencies, associated with areas of the papilla where hair cells survive. Functional recovery in these low frequency areas is complete, whereas functional recovery in high frequency areas with complete hair cell loss is incomplete, despite regeneration of the hair cells. Permanent residual functional deficits remain. This indicates that in low frequency regions functional recovery after aminoglycosides involves repair of nonlethal injury to hair cells and/or hair cell-neural synapses. In the high frequency regions functional recovery involves regenerated hair cells. The permanent functional deficits after the regeneration process in these areas are most likely associated with functional deficits in the regenerated hair cells or shortcomings in the synaptic reconnections of nerve fibers with the regenerated hair cells. In conclusion, the avian inner ear appears to be much more resistant to trauma than the mammalian ear and possesses a considerable capacity for functional recovery based on repair processes along with its capacity to regenerate hair cells. The functional recovery in areas with regenerated hair cells is considerable but incomplete.

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