Changes in the auditory nerve action potential (AP), evoked responses from the inferior colliculus (IC-ER) and auditory cortex (AC-ER) were assessed after exposure to white noise of 120 dB SPL for 1 h in awake guinea pigs. Auditory thresholds were estimated with the aid of averaged AP, IC-ER and AC-ER, besides the threshold shifts also the changes in amplitude-intensity functions were evaluated. Auditory thresholds for tone pips and clicks increased by 20-30 dB 1 h after exposure and were similar in all the three investigated structures. The maximum threshold shifts for tone pips were observed at 8 kHz and were 33.2 +/- 12.9 dB for AP, 30.4 +/- 12.7 dB for IC-ER and 30.8 +/- 13.0 dB for AC-ER (n = 20). The thresholds recovered to preexposure levels within one week. Reduction in AP and IC-ER amplitudes 1 h after exposure was similar, the amplitude-intensity functions were shifted by 20-40 dB. In contrast, the amplitude-intensity functions in the auditory cortex 1 h after exposure were steeper than before exposure and this amplitude enhancement was present for 24 h after exposure. The enhancement of the AC-ER which resembles recruitment and which may be a sign of hypersensitivity of the animal to auditory stimuli was present only when the animals exposed to noise were awake. The noise exposure in animals anaesthetized with urethane reduced the amplitude-intensity functions of all three recorded potentials.