The aim of the present study was to confirm the hypothesis that the cochlear efferent system is involved in the mechanisms underlying the "toughening" effect at high frequencies. The toughening effect is defined as a progressive threshold shift reduction when repeated exposures to the same noise are applied. Vestibular neurectomy was performed through a posterior cranial fossa approach in six healthy pigmented guinea pigs, and it assured the interruption of both crossed and uncrossed olivocochlear bundles to one ear only, before their entrance in the internal auditory meatus. The animals were then implanted with permanent electrodes for the electrocochleographic findings. Ten days after the operation the animals were exposed to octave-band toughening noise, centered at 4 kHz, at 85-dB SPL, for 10 consecutive days, 6 hours on/18 hours off. The hearing threshold was registered before and at the end of each exposure session. The behavior of the hearing threshold in the operated ears was then compared to that of the controlateral, nonoperated ears. Complete recovery from TS in the control ear began after four days of exposure, whereas in the operated ear hearing loss increased to day 7 (55 dB), with only a partial reduction (45 dB) beyond ten days of exposure. The results of the present study clearly demonstrated that sectioning of the OCB in guinea pigs causes persistent hearing loss during noise-exposure conditioning, in comparison to the contralateral, nonoperated ear. Thus, one can assume that the lack of decrease of TS during intermittent noise exposure could be due to the loss of the protective effect of the efferent fibers, perhaps mediated by the lateral OC neurons that synapse beneath the IHCs.