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New Technology To Help People With Hearing Loss

by Vanessa Waithera
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There is nothing better than using technology to better people’s lives and particularly health. Currently, 360 million people worldwide lack some or all of their ability to hear, technological interventions have come a long way although yet to be perfect. The problem with hearing aids is that certain frequencies as well as regular hearing cannot be translated. Many users have complained that hearing aids are uncomfortable or are simply not fit for them. However, scientists might be transforming this changes to better techniques that will better hearing interventions.

The last major innovation in hearing technology occurred in 1985 but there is current need to improve the quality for millions who have been waiting. Normal hearing is more simple than it may appear. Sound waves move through the ear canal and pulse the ear drum, which then moves the tiny bones inside the middle ear. They in turn tap the cochlea, a snail shell–looking structure that contains thousands of delicate hairs and fluid. The cochlea converts mechanical signals into electrical ones, which it then passes to the auditory nerve, which transmits it to the brain for processing.

The problem comes in when the ear presents an engineering problem. If any of the ear parts are disturbed then someone may lose some or all of her hearing. People who might lose their hearing later in life either due to toxin or loud noise would simply need a hearing aid to amplify sounds. Currently the device that has been used is known as the cochlear implant which was approved in 1985 but as time has gone by hearing aids have become uncomfortable and of little benefit. This is why more sophisticated devices are been made as the first step to better hearing.

A cochlear implant will now be an optical device instead of an electric one. Instead of turning sound into electrical signals to be transmitted to the brain, as current cochlear implants do, this technique turns sound into light. Micro-LEDs flash onto genetically altered neurons, which send the information to the brain. Researchers will work to target cells that cause hearing loss and work on genetic mutation to avoid hearing loss.


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