The promoter for the kv3.1 potassium channel gene is regulated by a Ca2+-cAMP responsive element, which binds the transcription factor cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB). Kv3.1 is expressed in a tonotopic gradient within the medial nucleus of the trapezoid body (MNTB) of the auditory brainstem, where Kv3.1 levels are highest at the medial end, which corresponds to high auditory frequencies. We have compared the levels of Kv3.1, CREB, and the phosphorylated form of CREB (pCREB) in a mouse strain that maintains good hearing throughout life, CBA/J (CBA), with one that suffers early cochlear hair cell loss, C57BL/6 (BL/6). A gradient of Kv3.1 immunoreactivity in the MNTB was detected in both young (6 week) and older (8 month) CBA mice. Although no gradient of CREB was detected, pCREB-immunopositive cells were grouped together in distinct clusters along the tonotopic axis. The same pattern of Kv3.1, CREB, and pCREB localization was also found in young BL/6 mice at a time (6 weeks) when hearing is normal. In contrast, at 8 months, when hearing is impaired, the gradient of Kv3.1 was abolished. Moreover, in the older BL/6 mice there was a decrease in CREB expression along the tonotopic axis, and the pattern of pCREB labeling appeared random, with no discrete clusters of pCREB-positive cells along the tonotopic axis. Our findings are consistent with the hypothesis that ongoing activity in auditory brainstem neurons is necessary for the maintenance of Kv3.1 tonotopicity through the CREB pathway.