The present study examines the recovery of the inner hair cell (IHC)/auditory nerve synapse following cochlear excitotoxicity induced by kainic acid (KA). Three hours after KA treatment, there was massive swelling of type I afferent endings under the IHCs. Five to ten days later, the pattern of IHC innervation appeared to be normal. Distortion-product otoacoustic emissions were normal during the whole experiment. The amplitude of the auditory nerve compound action potential (CAP) was significantly reduced immediately after KA treatment and then recovered over a 30-day period. However, it only took five days for the evoked response from the inferior colliculus (IC) to recover from a substantial depression. In contrast to amplitudes, thresholds for the CAP and IC recovered at the same rate and returned to normal within 5 days after KA. Single auditory nerve fibers were also assessed at various times after the KA treatment. Ten days after KA, these fibers had almost normal thresholds, tuning, spontaneous, and driven discharge rates. The results indicate that (1) excitotoxically damaged cochlear afferent neurons can rapidly regenerate and establish viable synapses with the IHCs, and (2) the central auditory system recovers more rapidly than the periphery.