In young adult guinea pigs, the effects of unilateral ossicle removal and cochlear ablation were determined on transmitter release from glutamatergic presynaptic endings and glutamate inactivation via uptake. (i) D-[3H]Aspartate release and uptake were measured in subdivisions of the cochlear nucleus (CN) and in nuclei of the superior olive (SOC) and auditory midbrain (MB) up to 145 days after placing the lesions. Activities were compared to those from age-matched unlesioned controls. Fiber degeneration was visualized histologically. (ii) In the ipsilateral CN, changes in release and uptake were governed by the type of lesion. Ossicle removal produced sparse pruning of fibers only after 112 days and decreased release and uptake at 145 days, consistent with regulatory weakening of excitatory glutamatergic transmission. Cochlear ablation deafferented the CN, producing deficient release and uptake at 2 days and abundant fiber degeneration at 7 days. Subsequently, the residual release and uptake increased in magnitude, consistent with strengthening of excitatory glutamatergic transmission. (iii) In the contralateral CN, after either lesion, changes in release and uptake usually matched those in the ipsilateral CN. Thus, the auditory pathway associated with the lesioned ear probably provided cues for the regulation of synaptic strength in the contralateral CN. (iv) Both lesions increased release in the SOC and MB, and uptake in the SOC, consistent with strengthening of excitatory glutamatergic transmission. Sparse fiber degeneration, suggesting axonal pruning, appeared in the SOC and MB after cochlear ablation. (v) The strengthening of excitatory glutamatergic transmission may facilitate and maintain symptoms such as loudness recruitment and tinnitus which often accompany hearing loss.