The mature mammalian organ of Corti does not regenerate spontaneously after injury, mainly due to the absence of cell proliferation and the depletion of otic progenitors with age. The polycomb gene B lymphoma Mo-MLV insertion region 1 homolog (Bmi1) promotes proliferation and cell cycle progression in several stem cell populations. The cell cycle inhibitor p16ink4a has been previously identified as a downstream target of Bmi1. In this study, we show that Bmi1 is expressed in the developing inner ear. In the organ of Corti, Bmi1 expression is temporally regulated during embryonic and postnatal development. In contrast, p16ink4a expression is not detectable during the same period. Bmi1-deficient mice were used to investigate the role of Bmi1 in cochlear development and otosphere generation. In the absence of Bmi1, the postnatal organ of Corti displayed normal morphology at least until the end of the first postnatal week, suggesting that Bmi1 is not required for the embryonic or early postnatal development of the organ of Corti. However, Bmi1 loss resulted in the reduced sphere-forming capacity of the organ of Corti, accompanied by the decreased cell proliferation of otic progenitors in otosphere cultures. This reduced proliferative capacity was associated with the upregulation of p16ink4a in vitro. Viral vector-mediated overexpression of p16ink4a in wildtype otosphere cultures significantly reduced the number of generated otospheres in vitro. The findings strongly suggest a role for Bmi1 as a promoter of cell proliferation in otic progenitor cells, potentially through the repression of p16ink4a.