|By Rebecca Boyle, Popsci 4/11/2012
Hearing loss from weapons and explosive devices has been the No. 1 disability in this country’s modern military conflicts, saddling thousands of veterans with anything from tinnitus to deafness. Now a new generation of laser-based implants promises to restore their hearing — and that of civilians, too — with higher resolution than existing technology.
Rather than stimulating inner ear auditory cells with electricity, or modifying them to respond to light directly, new laser-based cochlear implants will stimulate cells with heat. Here’s how it works.
Cochlear implants are widely available, albeit very expensive, but they can only restore very little of a person’s hearing. Current models can produce four to eight frequencies of sound, by stimulating nerves in the cochlea — the snail-shaped part of the inner ear — with eight separate electrodes. Click here to hear what it sounds like. Eight is not enough, explains Mark Bendett of Lockheed Martin Aculight, which is developing the laser-based technology. ...continue reading "How It Works: A Laser-Powered Ear Implant to Boost Hearing"