Medial Olivocochlear Reflex Effect on Cochlear Response in Humans: Elicitor Side and Level


Background: Understanding the functional differences between crossed and uncrossed medial olivocochlear (MOC) neurons has been of interest to researchers for decades. Previous reports revealed conflicting results about which MOC pathway, crossed or uncrossed, is stronger in humans. Both crossed and uncrossed MOC neurons synapse at the base of the outer hair cells (OHCs) in each ear. OHCs generate the cochlear microphonic, which is a major contributor to the cochlear response (CR) PURPOSE:  The current study investigated the effects of eliciting the crossed and uncrossed MOC reflex (MOCR) on CR in humans with three levels of noise.

Research Design: Normal-hearing, young adults ( = 16) participated in this study. The CR was recorded using 500 Hz tone-burst stimuli presented at 80 dB nHL. To examine the crossed and uncrossed MOCR, CR was recorded without and with continuous ipsilateral or contralateral broadband noise (BBN) at three levels (40, 50, and 60 dB SPL).

Data Analysis: Analysis of the CR was completed using the amplitude of the response extracted using fast Fourier transform. Statistical analysis was completed using repeated measures analysis of variance and analysis.

Results: Compared with baseline, the presentation of BBN, specifically contralaterally, resulted in CR enhancement with no significant difference as a function of the three BBN levels. Greater enhancement of the CR amplitude was observed with contralateral than ipsilateral BBN elicitor.

Conclusions: The current findings suggest that a contralateral elicitor of the uncrossed MOC pathway results in a larger CR amplitude enhancement compared with an ipsilateral elicitor of the crossed MOC pathway, regardless of the elicitor level. Eliciting the MOCR appears to modulate the OHCs function. Furthermore, assessing the MOCR with the 500 Hz CR with BBN elicitors at moderate levels should separate its effects (i.e., increase response amplitude) from those associated with the middle ear muscle reflex (i.e., reduce response amplitude).


Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Journal of the American Academy of Audiology