We have estimated the transfer curve relating instantaneous sound pressure in the ear canal to instantaneous receptor current through the outer hair cells (OHCs) in the basal turn of the guinea pig cochlea using the cochlear microphonic (CM) elicited by continuous 200 Hz tones. The transfer curve is well approximated by a Boltzmann activation curve which has been automatically analysed using a custom-built electronic circuit which continuously derives the three parameters defining the curve with a time resolution of seconds. This technique offers a convenient method of monitoring changes in OHC mechano-electrical transduction due to cochlear disturbances, and allows the investigation of cochlear homeostasis over the course of hours. We present here details of the technique, evidence that the recordings are minimally contaminated by neural responses, and normative data on the changes in the parameters with sound level. As the level of the 200 Hz tone increases, the equivalent operating point on the transfer curve migrates in a way consistent with a movement of the organ of Corti towards scala tympani or a contraction of the outer hair cells. Surprisingly, the effective slope of the curve which represents the mechanical sensitivity of the transduction process decreases over an 8 to 1 range as the level of the 200 Hz tone is increased. The effect of this variation is that the amplitude of the equivalent mechanical displacement input to the mechano-electrical transduction process appears to increase by a mere 2 to 1 while the sound level increases by a factor of 20 to 1. These changes are not neurally mediated, since they also occur in the presence of tetrodotoxin and the blocker of afferent neurotransmission, kainate.