Background The rapid spread of devices generating electromagnetic fields (EMF) has raised concerns as to the possible effects of this technology on humans. The auditory system is the neural organ most frequently and directly exposed to electromagnetic activity owing to the daily use of mobile phones. In recent publications, a possible correlation between mobile phone usage and central nervous system tumours has been detected. Very recently a deterioration in otoacoustic emissions and in the auditory middle latency responses after intensive and long-term magnetic field exposure in humans has been demonstrated. Methods To determine with objective observations if exposure to mobile phone EMF affects acoustically evoked cochlear nerve compound action potentials, seven patients suffering from Ménière's disease and undergoing retrosigmoid vestibular neurectomy were exposed to the effects of mobile phone placed over the craniotomy for 5 min. Results All patients showed a substantial decrease in amplitude and a significant increase in latency of cochlear nerve compound action potentials during the 5 min of exposure to EMF. These changes lasted for a period of around 5 min after exposure. Discussion The possibility that EMF can produce relatively long-lasting effects on cochlear nerve conduction is discussed and analysed in light of contrasting previous literature obtained under non-surgical conditions. Limitations of this novel approach, including the effects of the anaesthetics, craniotomy and surgical procedure, are presented in detail.
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