Current Status of Theories of Hearing

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Science  04 May 1956:
Vol. 123, Issue 3201, pp. 779-783
DOI: 10.1126/science.123.3201.779


In summing up the current status of the hearing theories, it may be said that each of the vibration patterns of the basilar membrane postulated by the four major theories of hearing can be obtained by varying two elastic properties of the membrane—namely, the coupling between adjacent parts and the absolute value of the elasticity. If these two variables are adjusted to their numerical values in the cochlea of a living animal or a fresh preparation of the human ear, traveling waves are observed along the membrane. These traveling waves have a flat maximum that shifts its location along the membrane with a change of frequency—the place of the maximum determining the pitch. An enlarged dimensional model of the cochlea in which the nerve supply of the sensory organs on the basilar membrane was replaced by the skin of the arm indicates that the inhibitory action in the nervous system can produce quite sharp local sensations, which shift their place with changes in the frequency of the vibrations.