The active amplification of sound-induced vibrations in the cochlea, known to be crucial for auditory sensitivity and frequency selectivity, is not well understood. The outer hair cell (OHC) somatic electromotility is a potential mechanism for such amplification. Its effectiveness in vivo is putatively limited by the electrical low-pass filtering of the cell's transmembrane potential. However, the transmembrane potential is an incomplete metric. We propose and estimate two metrics to evaluate the effectiveness of OHC electromotility in vivo. One metric is the OHC electromechanical ratio defined as the amplitude of the ratio of OHC displacement to the change in its transmembrane potential. The in vivo electromechanical ratio is derived from the recently measured in vivo displacements of the reticular lamina and the basilar membrane at the 19 kHz characteristic place in guinea pigs and using a model. The ratio, after accounting for the differences in OHC vibration in situ due to the impedances from the adjacent structures, is in agreement with the literature values of the in vitro electromechanical ratio measured by others. The second and more insightful metric is the OHC somatic power. Our analysis demonstrates that the organ of Corti is nearly optimized to receive maximum somatic power in vivo and that the estimated somatic power could account for the active amplification.
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