Building on similar success with retinal implants, scientists in California have announced marked improvement in the quality of hearing for people who are otherwise nearly deaf. The implants deliver sounds directly to the auditory nerves that route hearing information to the brain, bypassing the cochlea entirely. Since many near-deaf people have cochlear damage, this solution would seem to bypass the troubling part of their anatomy.
The implants sit inside the ear yet don’t act in conventional ways. All the same, they improve hearing and noise differentiation, like distinguishing conversation from background noise. Experiments with implants of greater efficiency have proved successful on cats, and the researchers are eager to try similar implants on people.
Hearing loss strikes millions of people each year, from causes ranging from loud music to old age. In many cases, the cochlea itself is too badly damaged to enable traditional hearing methods to work. These new implants solve that problem by bypassing the hearing problem entirelyâ€”a true hallmark of champion problem-solving.