We have examined changes in the orientation of stereociliary bundles of hair cells in the cochlear sensory epithelium that occur during normal embryonic development and during the regeneration of hair cells that follows acoustic trauma. At the time when hair cell surfaces become recognizable in the embryonic cochlea, the bundles of stereocilia exhibit a range of orientations, as indicated by the position of the kinocilium and later, by the location of the tallest row of stereocilia. With time, the orientations of bundles on neighboring hair cells become more uniform, a condition that is maintained in the adult. Changes in stereocilia orientation are also observed during the regeneration of hair cells after acoustic trauma. When new hair cells first differentiate at sites of trauma in the recovering sensory epithelium, their stereociliary bundles are not uniformly oriented. Then as the cells mature over a period of days, the bundles become aligned both with the neighboring bundles in the region of the previous lesion and with the pre-existing bundles that surround the site of regeneration. We conclude that the stereociliary bundles of hair cells are reorienting as the cells differentiate. A common mechanism may guide reorientation both during embryonic development and during regeneration. Observations in living cochleae indicate that differentiating stereociliary bundles establish asymmetric linkages to the extracellular matrix of the developing tectorial membrane. During the growth of the tectorial membrane, its progressive extension across the surface of the sensory epithelium may exert traction forces through those asymmetric linkages that pull the bundles of the hair cells into uniform alignment.