The time course of the changes in perilymphatic glutamate was determined during the application of kanamycin and ethacrynic acid, which are known to damage the hair cells in the inner ear. For the continuous recording of glutamate, the microdialysis technique combined with an enzyme-linked fluorometric assay was used. In guinea pigs receiving a loading dose of 800 mg/kg of kanamycin subcutaneously followed 3 h later by an i.v. injection of 40 mg/kg of ethacrynic acid, a marked glutamate release was clearly found about 2 h after the injection of ethacrynic acid. Injection of kanamycin or ethacrynic acid alone did not produce any change in the perilymphatic glutamate. The morphological changes induced by the administration of both drugs indicated that the collapsing hair cells might release glutamate into the perilymphatic space. The present findings provide additional evidence that glutamate acts as an aggravating factor in aminoglycoside-induced ototoxicity.