Similarity of traveling-wave delays in the hearing organs of humans and other tetrapods

Mario A. Ruggero*, Andrei N. Temchin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Transduction of sound in mammalian ears is mediated by basilar-membrane waves exhibiting delays that increase systematically with distance from the cochlear base. Most contemporary accounts of such "traveling-wave" delays in humans have ignored postmortem basilar-membrane measurements in favor of indirect in vivo estimates derived from brainstem-evoked responses, compound action potentials, and otoacoustic emissions. Here, we show that those indirect delay estimates are either flawed or inadequately calibrated. In particular, we argue against assertions based on indirect estimates that basilar-membrane delays are much longer in humans than in experimental animals. We also estimate in vivo basilar-membrane delays in humans by correcting postmortem measurements in humans according to the effects of death on basilar-membrane vibrations in other mammalian species. The estimated in vivo basilar-membrane delays in humans are similar to delays in the hearing organs of other tetrapods, including those in which basilar membranes do not sustain traveling waves or that lack basilar membranes altogether.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-166
Number of pages14
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Auditory
  • Basilar membrane
  • Brainstem evoked responses
  • Cochlea
  • Compound action potentials
  • Otoacoustic emissions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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