I am reading about the mechanics of the basilar membrane in the inner ear. In various publications, it is said that, at a specific position on the basilar membrane, the outer hair cells are activated by the amount of basilar membrane displacement while the IHC are activated by its velocity.

As far as I know each position on the basilar membrane vibrates at a characteristic frequency. Given that the to-and-fro movements have the same frequency at all sound intensities, isn't the velocity be directly proportional to the membrane displacement? If that is the case, does this mean that the activation curve is steeper at higher frequencies?

  • $\begingroup$ Only the inner hair cells are stimulated by the movement of the basilar membrane. The outer hair cells are active elements that contract and elongate in response to sound, in a way not fully understood, but no doubt helping increase sensitivity and likely also frequency resolution of the hearing. $\endgroup$
    – user69929
    Apr 24, 2022 at 12:42


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