Masculinization of the mammalian cochlea

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Abstract

Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs) differ between the sexes in humans, rhesus and marmoset monkeys, and sheep. OAEs also are different in a number of special populations of humans. Those basic findings are reviewed and discussed in the context of possible prenatal-androgen effects on the auditory system. A parsimonious explanation for several outcomes is that prenatal exposure to high levels of androgens can weaken the cochlear amplifiers and thereby weaken otoacoustic emissions (OAEs). Prenatal androgen exposure apparently also can alter auditory evoked potentials (AEPs). Some non-hormonal factors possibly capable of producing sex and group differences are discussed, and some speculations are offered about specific cochlear structures that might differ between the two sexes.

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