The invention is directed to a method of changing the sensory perception of an animal. The method comprises administering an expression vector comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding an atonal-associated factor, which is expressed to produce the atonal-associated factor resulting in generation of hair cells that allow perception of stimuli in the inner ear. Also provided is a method of generating a hair cell in differentiated sensory epithelia in vivo. The method comprises contacting differentiated sensory epithelial cells with an adenoviral vector (a) deficient in one or more replication-essential gene functions of the E1 region and E4 region, (b) comprising a spacer in the E4 region, and (c) comprising a nucleic acid sequence encoding an atonal-associated factor. The nucleic acid sequence is expressed to produce the atonal-associated factor such that a hair cell is generated. An adenoviral vector encoding an atonal-associated factor also is provided.