To understand how the inner ear-generated sound, i.e., otoacoustic emission, exits the cochlea, we created a sound source electrically in the second turn and measured basilar membrane vibrations at two longitudinal locations in the first turn in living gerbil cochleae using a laser interferometer. For a given longitudinal location, electrically evoked basilar membrane vibrations showed the same tuning and phase lag as those induced by sounds. For a given frequency, the phase measured at a basal location led that at a more apical location, indicating that either an electrical or an acoustical stimulus evoked a forward travelling wave. Under postmortem conditions, the electrically evoked emissions showed no significant change while the basilar membrane vibration nearly disappeared. The current data indicate that basilar membrane vibration was not involved in the backward propagation of otoacoustic emissions and that sounds exit the cochlea probably through alternative media, such as cochlear fluids.
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