There are types of deafness and tinnitus in which ruptures or massive changes in the ionic permeability of the membranes lining the endolymphatic space [e.g., of the reticular lamina (RL)] are believed to allow potassium-rich endolymph to deluge the low [K+] perilymphatic fluid (e.g., in the small spaces of Nuel). This would result in a K+ intoxication of sensory and neural structures. Acute attacks of Ménière's disease have been suggested to be an important example for this event. The present study investigated the effects of transiently elevated [K+] due to the addition of artificial endolymph to the basolateral cell surface of outer hair cells (OHC) in replicating endolymph-induced K+ intoxication of the perilymph in the small spaces of Nuel. The influence of K+ intoxication of the basolateral OHC cell surface on the transduction was then examined. Intoxication resulted in an inhibition of the physiological repolarizing K+ efflux from hair cells. This induced unwanted depolarizations of the hair cells, interfering with mechanoelectrical transduction. A pathological longitudinal OHC shortening was also found, with subsequent compression of the organ of Corti possibly influencing the micromechanics of the mechanically active OHC. Both micromechanical and electrophysiological alterations are proposed to contribute to endolymph leakage induced attacks of deafness and possibly also to tinnitus. Moreover, repeated or long-lasting K+ intoxications of OHC resulted in a chronic and complete loss of OHC motility. This is suggested to be a pathophysiological basis in some patients with chronic hearing loss resulting from Ménière's syndrome.