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The Electrolytic Theory of Hearing (presented here) is an alternate to and a replacement for the prior resonant theory of the cochlea and the chemical theory of the neuron.  It answers questions that have not even been formulated within the context of these earlier theories.

This theory replaces the various attempts to explain hearing based on resonance phenomena with a theory based on spectral dispersion (equivalent to a prism scattering light). The spectral dispersion theory is the first (and only theory) to explain the very high rate of attenuation on the high frequency side of the critical frequency in hearing frequency responses.

A series of web pages are provided that can act as guides to specific portions of the Hearing Modality. The GUIDES are accessible on the left.

Last update:              Activa™: See Citation Page

This site presents the first comprehensive theory of hearing under two titles:
The short form is; The Comprehensive Electrolytic Theory of Hearing

and the long form is

The Multi-Channel Theory of Biological Hearing based on

  • a Surface Acoustic Wave Filter,
  • an active liquid crystalline Electrolytic Semiconductor Device within each Neuron and
  • Holonomic Cognition using Associative Memory Techniques.
This site addresses the material in two forms, the complete text and a series of individual guides.

The text HEARING: A 21ST CENTURY PARADIGM is available in published form at upper right or from your book store,
ISBN 978-1-4251-6065-4.

The GUIDES are accessible to the left and below.  Portions of the published text are available in manuscript at the link
Download Chapters also on the left.

Dr. Rodney Staples gave an unsolicited critical review of this theory to the Melbourne, Australia Section of the Audio engineering Society on 12 Sept. 2011. The material can be reviewed, including the slides and discussion that followed, using the hypertext on the right column of this page.

This webpage is designed to introduce the following major subjects.


The modality of hearing has been studied intensely since the mid-1800's.  As the tools of science have advanced, so have the investigative tools of hearing research.  However, until about 1970, the technology for understanding the operation of hearing was not available to science.  This has caused a reliance on the resonance theory of basilar motion to explain how hearing is accomplished up until this day.

The unsatisfactory state of understanding of the hearing modality has been expressed by many researchers; clearly by Kiang1 in 1965, and even more clearly by de Boer's paradox2 in 1984.  De Boer requested help in developing better models that would resolve the paradox he described.  In 1995, Eddins & Green3, writing in Moore, focused on the lack of a comprehensive model of hearing and accepted that empirically planned experimental results would vary among investigators.  They noted this inconsistency was particularly prevalent with regard to temporal measurements.

The problem exists because a large group of individual "floating" models have been described.  No comprehensive model of the system has been developed.  The problem has been compounded by the tendency of researchers to build upon the earlier work of others without confirming that work or seeking an integrated model.  This approach has narrowed the perspective of the research community and hampered the introduction of a broader scientific model.

This work introduces a comprehensive block diagram of the hearing system that is designed to support future research following the Scientific Method more closely.  In effect, this model supports closure of the experimental research phase of hearing research and advancement into the applied research arena.

The theory is far more complete and mathematically rigorous than any other presented to date. It introduces three major paradigm shifts affecting concepts held true for the last 50 years, a super extended period considering the rate of changes in other scientific technologies.

The proposed model is compatible with, and explains, de Boer's paradox.  It thereby resolves the inconsistencies noted by Eddins & Green as well.

The following material is based on an entirely deterministic hearing mechanism.  No probabilistic mechanisms are involved.

The following material rejects all resonance theories of hearing and all chemical gate theories of the neural system.  The tasks previously assigned to resonance are accomplished more simply and more effectively based on dispersion.  Similarly, electrons pass through biological lemma much more easily than ions and support active semiconductor circuits.  These circuits can not be realized based on ionic chemistry.


The theory is far more complete and mathematically rigorous than any presented previously. It introduces three major paradigm shifts affecting concepts held true for the last 50 years, a super extended period considering the rate of changes in other scientific technologies. Most earlier theories have been criticized as only addressing the transduction mechanism within the cochlea. The concepts employed here include:

  1. The curvature of the cochlear partition is critically important in the operation of the cochlea.
  2. The spectral analysis of the acoustic energy presented to the ear is dependent on the liquid-crystalline structure of the tectorial membrane.
  3. The neural system is based on an electrolytic semiconductor device known as the Activa.
  4. The operation of the neural system, except under two special conditions, is entirely deterministic. Normally, there are no statistical processes involved.

The exceptions to the last concept involve small numbers of photons/phonons/electrons at the quantum/mechanical level, and decisions made in the "mind" at the highest cognitive level.

As noted in the first concept, this work does not support theories of hearing based on the vibration of a linearized basilar membrane.


This website is designed to provide a general overview of how the hearing modality is implemented in animals (with primary attention to air-breathing chordates). As it progresses, it focuses more clearly on human hearing. Simultaneously, it provides an overview of the published work, "Biological Hearing: A 21st Century Tutorial," and the much larger manuscript, "Processes in Biological Hearing." The former will be available at the end of 2005 from any bookstore or from this site. The latter is available from this site in draft form. It provides extensive references to the published empirical literature.


This website follows the organization of the above works. It begins with development of a series of progressively more complex block diagrams and ends with a review of a variety of failures in the system leading to disease.

  • Block Diagrams applicable to the hearing modality.
  • Anatomy and Morphology of the hearing modality.
  • Physiology of the hearing modality & Stage 0, the mechanical portion.
  • Stage 1, Signal transduction in the peripheral neural system.
  • Stage 2, Signal processing in the peripheral neural system.
  • Stage 3, Signal propagation to the central nervous system.
  • Stage 4, Signal manipulation within the central nervous system.
  • Stage 5, Cognition within the CNS.
  • The Overall Performance of the Human Hearing System.
  • Failure modes found in the hearing modality.


The common concept of the cochlea as involving motions of the basilar membrane and multiple resonances occuring along the basilar membrane are dismissed in favor of the more explicit description of the propagation of acoustic energy as a slow wave along Hensen's stripe, an element of the tectorial membrane, and dispersion of the energy as a function of frequency with changes in the curvature of the stripe. The dispersion is accomplished in accordance with a simple well documented mechanism.

The operation of the cochlear partition is highlighted in the logo at the top of this page.

This theory defines specific separate roles for the inner and outer hair cells for the first time.

In support of the above, The ELECTROLYTIC THEORY also presents

  • the first description of the


  1. Kiang, N. (1965) Discharge Patterns of Single Fibers in the Cat's Auditory Nerve. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press research monograph #35
  2. de Boer, E. (1984) Auditory time constants: A paradox? In Michelsen, A. ed. Time Resolution in Auditory Systems. NY: Springer-Verlag pp 141-158
  3. Eddins, D. & Green, D. (1995) Temporal integration and temporal resolution In Moore, B. ed. Hearing. NY: Academic Press pp 207-241


Because of the revolutionary nature of some of the material presented, students subject to examination by their institution are encouraged to review the Cautions Page before proceeding.

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