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It has been shown that glucocorticoids reduce the hearing threshold shifts associated with cochlear implantation. Previous studies evaluated the administration of glucocorticoids immediately before surgery or the repeated pre- or perioperative systemic application of glucocorticoids. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of a sustained release dexamethasone hydrogel in hearing preservation cochlear implantation. To address this issue, a guinea pig model of cochlear implantation was used. 30 normal hearing pigmented guinea pigs were randomized into a group receiving a single dose of a dexamethasone/poloxamer407 hydrogel one day prior to surgery, a second group receiving the hydrogel seven days prior to surgery and a control group. A silicone cochlear implant electrode designed for the use in guinea pigs was inserted to a depth of 5 mm through a cochleostomy. Compound action potentials of the auditory nerve (frequency range 0.5–32 kHz) were measured preoperatively, directly postoperatively and on postoperative days 3, 7, 14, 21 and 28. Following the last audiometry, temporal bones were harvested and histologically evaluated.Dexamethasone hydrogel application one day prior to surgery resulted in significantly reduced hearing threshold shifts at low, middle and high frequencies measured at postoperative day 28 (p < 0.05). Application of the hydrogel seven days prior to surgery did not show such an effect. Dexamethasone application one day prior to surgery resulted in increased outer hair cell counts in the cochlear apex and in reduced spiral ganglion cell counts in the basal and middle turn of the cochlea, a finding that was associated with a higher rate of electrode translocation in this group.In this study, we were able to demonstrate functional benefits of a single preoperative intratympanic application of a sustained release dexamethasone hydrogel in a guinea pig model of cochlear implantation.Preoperative steroid hydrogels reduce hearing loss during cochlear implantation.Hearing threshold shifts were reduced at low, middle and high frequencies.Preoperative topical steroids result in higher outer hair cell numbers in the apex.