Infrared neural stimulation (INS) is a method to depolarize neurons with infrared light. While consensus exists that heating of the target structure is essential, subsequent steps that result in the generation of an action potential are controversially discussed in the literature. The question of whether cochlear INS is an acoustic event has not been clarified. Results have been published that could be explained solely by an acoustic event. However, data exist that do not support an acoustical stimulus as the dominant factor in cochlear INS. We review the different findings that have been suggested for the mechanism of INS. Furthermore, we present the data that clarify the role of an acoustical event in cochlear INS. Masking experiments have been performed in hearing, hearing impaired, and severely hearing impaired animals. In normal hearing animals, the laser response could be masked by the acoustic stimulus. Once thresholds to acoustic stimuli were elevated, the ability to acoustically mask the INS response gradually disappeared. Thresholds for acoustic stimuli were significantly elevated in animals with compromised cochlear function, while the thresholds for optical stimulation remained largely unchanged. The results suggest that the direct interaction between the radiation and the target structure dominates cochlear INS.