Using lasers to make the deaf hear

While this is still a work in progress, it would be cool if it happens:

About 100,000 profoundly deaf people now hear with cochlear implants, which work by stimulating the auditory nerve with a string of electrodes implanted in the inner ear. While the devices enable many users to converse easily and use telephones, they still fall short of restoring normal hearing. Now scientists at Northwestern University are exploring whether laser-based implants could one day outperform today’s electrical version.

The mammalian ear uses neural firing rates as one way of encoding sound. As part of a project funded by the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), Claus-Peter Richter and his colleagues at Northwestern have demonstrated that they can control firing rates in the auditory nerve of animals using infrared laser radiation. They are now trying to establish that it’s safe to use for long periods of time and that it can manipulate neural firing rates with enough precision to send useful information to the brain.

Read the full article from MIT’s Tech Review titled Making Deaf Ears Hear with Light.

Some of the research being done in areas like biotech and nanotech is amazing.

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