Mechanical stimuli are thought to open the transduction channels of a hair cell by tensing elastic components, the gating springs, that pull directly on the channels. To test this model, we measured the stiffness of hair bundles during mechanical stimulation. A bundle's compliance increased by about 40% at the position where half of the channels opened. This we attribute to conformational changes of transduction channels as they open and close. The magnitude and displacement dependence of the gating compliance provide quantitative information about the molecular basis of mechanoelectrical transduction: the force required to open each channel, the number of transduction channels per hair cell, the stiffness of a gating spring, and the swing of a channel's gate as it opens.