The prevailing theory of cochlear function states that outer hair cells amplify sound-induced vibration to improve hearing sensitivity and frequency specificity. Recent micromechanical measurements in the basal turn of gerbil cochleae through the round window have demonstrated that the reticular lamina vibration lags the basilar membrane vibration, and it is physiologically vulnerable not only at the best frequency but also at the low frequencies. These results suggest that outer hair cells from a broad cochlear region enhance hearing sensitivity through a global hydromechanical mechanism. However, the time difference between the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibration has been thought to result from a systematic measurement error caused by the optical axis non-perpendicular to the cochlear partition. To address this concern, we measured the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibrations in the transverse direction through an opening in the cochlear lateral wall in this study. Present results show that the phase difference between the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibration decreases with frequency by ~ 180 degrees from low frequencies to the best frequency, consistent with those measured through the round window. Together with the round-window measurement, the low-coherence interferometry through the cochlear lateral wall demonstrates that the time difference between the reticular lamina and basilar membrane vibration results from the cochlear active processing rather than a measurement error.
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