The aim of this study was to investigate the involvement of oxidative stress and apoptosis in an animal model of Meniere's disease. Endolymphatic hydrops (ELH) is generally accepted as the decisive histological characteristic of Meniere's disease. Closure of the endolymphatic duct (Kimura's method) was used to induce endolymphatic hydrops in guinea pigs. Sham-operated animals served as controls. After 4 weeks the animals operated showed a significant elevation of the hearing thresholds as measured by audiometric brainstem responses (ABR) pre- and postoperatively. Immediately after the second ABR measurement, the animals were sacrificed for further immunohistological examinations of the inner ear with specific antibodies to active caspase-3 (cas-3) as a marker for apoptosis and antibodies to 8-isoprostane (8-iso) and nitrotyrosine (NT) as indicators of oxidative stress. Compared with the sham-operated controls, hydropic cochleae showed strong immunostaining for both oxidative stress markers in spiral ganglion cells, in the blood-vessels and fibrocytes of the lateral wall, as well as in supporting cells of the organ of Corti. Activation of cas-3 in spiral ganglion cells and the lateral wall was found exclusively in hydropic cochleae. Our findings suggest that oxidative stress is involved in the development of endolymphatic hydrops and may lead to cellular damage which induces apoptosis by activation of cas-3. Apoptotic cell death might contribute to the sensorineural hearing loss found in later stages of Meniere's disease.