The literature provides conflicting information on whether the motion of the stapes footplate is piston-like or some other type of motion, such as rotational or rocking. Examination of the three-dimensional (3D) motion of the stapes footplate appears to be an excellent way to understand this complicated motion. Five microsphere reflective targets were placed on the stapes footplate in ten fresh human cadaver temporal bone preparations, and their vibration measured through an extended facial recess approach using a laser Doppler vibrometer. The five target sites on the stapes footplate were center, anterior, posterior, superior and inferior. The stimulus was a sound input of 80–120 dB SPL at the tympanic membrane over a frequency range of 0.1 to 10 kHz. The 3D motion of the stapes footplate was calculated using the velocity amplitude and phase obtained for each target. For frequencies up to 1.0 kHz the vibration of the stapes footplate was primarily piston-like; this motion became complex at higher frequencies, with rotary motion along both the long and short axis of the footplate. When the cochlea was drained, stapes footplate motion became essentially piston-like for all frequencies.

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