In the past, the relationship between pulmonary hysteresis and a model of the recruitment-derecruitment of lung units has been explored (Cheng, W., DeLong, D.S., Franz, G.N., Petsonk, E.L., Frazer, D.G., 1995, Resp. Physiol. 102, 205-215). The recruitment process is characterized by a sequence of events which represents discrete configurational changes in lung structure. It is assumed that energy released during the opening of lung units is associated with the formation of discontinuous lung sounds. The goal of this study was to record tracheal sounds for lungs inflated from different end-expiratory pressures and to relate the sound power to the normalized hysteresis of individual pressure-volume (PL-VL) loops. PL-VL curves and lung sounds were recorded for control lungs and lungs rinsed with Tween 20 in order to estimate the role of alveolar surfactant on the recruitment-derecruitment process. Results indicate that there may be two populations of lung units, one which is altered by Tween 20 and another which is not. The population not affected by Tween 20 appears to be responsible for producing discrete lung sounds and may represent the opening of larger conducting airways. The second population, possibly within the respiratory zone, is affected by alterations in surface tension and contributes to pulmonary hysteresis, but, apparently, does not contribute significantly to lung sound power measured at the trachea.