Laser Hearing

“This changes everything.”  That’s been quite the popular phrase lately.  It gets applied to almost everything nowadays.  Political campaigns.  The unveiling of a new Apple product.  But what about hearing implants?

I’m currently working on the first draft of my play which deals with the identity of Deaf culture past and present.  One of the topics the play explores is the debate about cochlear implants.  These are hearing aid devices used by a deaf person in order to hear sound.  Unlike external hearing aids, cochlear implants are internal, connected to a receiver on the outside.  It’s been proven highly controversial amongst the deaf community.  Some feel it helps them to hear.  Others feel it’s a waste of time and forces deaf recipients to lose their deaf identity altogether.
So there may be a new kid in town to add to the debate.  Currently being tested in the laboratory is a new way to hear.  With lasers.  Yep, lasers.  What can’t lasers do?  This article explains how “laser hearing” works:
I found this section to be the most interesting:

Existing cochlear implants convert sound into electrical signals, which typically are transmitted to eight electrodes in the cochlea, a part of the inner ear where sound vibrations are converted to nerve signals to the brain. Eight electrodes can deliver only eight frequencies of sound, Rabbitt says.

“A healthy adult can hear more than 3,000 different frequencies. With optical stimulation, there’s a possibility of hearing hundreds or thousands of frequencies instead of eight. Perhaps someday an optical cochlear implant will allow deaf people to once again enjoy music and hear all the nuances in sound that a hearing person would enjoy.”

This sounds really exciting.  Or course I’m a hearing person reacting to this news.  I wonder how this news will be taken by the Deaf community.  I’m sure some will be intrigued and excited about this news.  Some will be skeptical.  And some probably won’t even care.

So there you have it.  Hearing with lasers.  This changes everything.

Or does it?

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