Recent findings show that the vanilloid receptor subtype 1 (TRPV1) is expressed by cochlear outer hair cells and spiral ganglion cells, and that its expression is up-regulated in ganglion cells after aminoglycoside treatment. This study tested the hypothesis that agents that act on TRPV1 receptors affect the spectrum of ensemble background activity (EBA). Consecutive intracochlear perfusions of the TRPV1 agonist, capsaicin (CAP 0.1, 1, and 10 parts per million), as well as its antagonist capsazepine (CZP), were used to test effects of TRPV1 activation on EBA recorded from the cochlear base. Perfusion with CAP alone produced a dose-dependent increase of the 900-Hz peak ratio (power normalized re the overall spectrum) of the EBA. The CAP effect was attenuated during concurrent perfusion with CZP. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that TRPV1 activation increases background activity of spiral ganglion cells and support a role of TRPV1 in gating spontaneous and evoked auditory nerve excitability.