Human hearing is governed by approximately 15 500 mechanosensory hair cells in each ear. These cells are located within the organ of Corti, the elongated auditory sensory epithelium that is stretched inside the coiled cochleae of the inner ear. Despite the structural diversity between the organs of hearing throughout the animal kingdom, hair cells are instantly recognizable. Their shapes and sizes vary considerably, but their apices carry a characteristic bundle of actin-filled stereocilia, or hairs, whose tips are connected by stretch-sensitive ‘tip-links’1. However, unlike most other animals, mammals do not regenerate lost hair cells2, consequently most forms of deafness are irreversible.

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