An increasing body of work has focussed on the identification, in animal models, of potential stem cell sources that could have an application for regenerative therapy in the auditory organ. A still more circumscribed effort – owing to ethical and technical difficulties – aims to obtain the actual potential therapeutic candidates (i.e. stem cells of human origin). A recently isolated population of human fetal auditory stem cells could become an ideal model for some of the challenges lying ahead regarding cochlear stem cell purification, expansion and maintenance. In this article Marcelo N. Rivolta highlights some of the important issues lying ahead and the technical challenges that he believes need addressing to move auditory stem cells closer to a clinical therapy.