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Nat Commun. 2011;2:216. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1226.

Measurement of cochlear power gain in the sensitive gerbil ear.

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Department of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, Oregon Hearing Research Center, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, Oregon 97239, USA.


The extraordinary sensitivity of the mammalian ear is commonly attributed to the cochlear amplifier, a cellular process thought to locally boost responses of the cochlear partition to soft sounds. However, cochlear power gain has not been measured directly. Here we use a scanning laser interferometer to determine the volume displacement and volume velocity of the cochlear partition by measuring its transverse vibration along and across the partition. We show the transverse displacement at the peak-response location can be >1,000 times greater than the displacement of the stapes, whereas the volume displacement of an area centred at this location is approximately tenfold greater than that of the stapes. Using the volume velocity and cochlear-fluid impedance, we discover that power at the peak-response area is >100-fold greater than that at the stapes. These results demonstrate experimentally that the cochlea amplifies soft sounds, offering insight into the mechanism responsible for the cochlear sensitivity.

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