Modern technology already does a lot for the 360 million people worldwide who have at least some amount of hearing loss, but compared to some other industries, progress is frustratingly slow for many people. Hearing aids still can’t translate certain frequencies with any amount of clarity, and some people find them uncomfortable to use. The last major innovation for hearing loss — cochlear implants — appeared in 1985, and there have only been minor improvements on the technology since. But scientists are working today on a variety of innovative technologies that could greatly improve the quality of life for millions of hearing impaired people around the globe.
New and Improved Cochlear Implants
The FDA approved cochlear implants in 1985, and there has been very little improvement in the technology since then. For those who have lost hearing later in life, new discoveries may make a big difference. A group at the University Medical Center Göttingen is trying to improve the way cochlear implants work. Tobias Moser, the head of the auditory neuroscience group there, is attempting to turn them into optical devices instead of purely electrical ones. Instead of turning sound into electrical signals like current implants do, these new devices would turn them into light before sending them to the brain.
Moser and his team have already proven that the technology works in mice and rats. The next step is primate studies before the implants can be tested on humans, hopefully within the next four years.
Changing the Goal
Rather than trying to improve existing hearing levels, some researchers are looking into the body’s cells to determine how to restore patients’ original hearing. A group at Stanford University is trying to figure out how to turn back time, in essence, by causing the cells in the inner ear to revert back to their previous conditions, which should restore the lost ability to hear in each ear. Birds and mammals don’t have the ability to do that right now, so the team is studying how the cells in other animals tell each other to regenerate. If all goes well, drug trials for multiple compounds should begin within five to ten years.
Future technology is designed to make dealing with hearing loss much easier, but it can still be a challenge today. Our professional team at U.S. Hearing Solutions can help. Contact us to make an appointment today.