A bionic ear that could help the deaf communicate even better

This is news that has the potential to change the lives of thousands of people.

Research underway at The Bionics Institute in Melbourne

Researchers in Australia are developing a way to adapt the cochlear implant in the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve using light instead of electrical impulses.

This is great news as hearing aids and implants are limited because users are not able to pick out complex sounds or hear clearly among background noise.

The new technology can help target sounds specifically in different frequency regions along the auditory nerve. Experts hope that this could solve the current limitations with cochlear implants.

How do cochlear implants work?

Cochlear implants were developed 40 years ago and have two parts, a speech processor and a surgically implanted receiver and a set of electrodes. The microphone picks up sound waves which it sends to the processor where the converted sounds are transmitted to the brain. The results vary sharply depending on the health of the inner ear and the individual brain.

The new research enables the nerve to respond to light instead of electrical signals using gene therapy.

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