Corticosteroids historically have been used to treat autoimmune sensorineural hearing loss, although little is known of how steroids restore normal inner ear function. Therefore, to identify a potential model for this field of research, this study examined the effects of prednisolone on auditory brain stem response thresholds in the MRL/lpr mouse model of autoimmune sensorineural hearing loss. Mice treated with prednisolone after auditory threshold elevations demonstrated significant improvement and stabilization of thresholds compared with untreated controls. MRL/lpr mice treated with steroids before the onset of autoimmune disease and cochlear dysfunction demonstrated decreased serum immune complexes, higher survival rates, and lower auditory thresholds compared with untreated controls. These positive results suggest the autoimmune mouse may be useful for studies of steroid-responsive mechanisms of the cochlea in autoimmune sensorineural hearing loss, as well as any hearing disorder in which steroid therapy is currently used.
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