Can the condition of being deaf be reversed? A group of boffings from the University of Utah that has Richard Rabbitt at the helm has come across a method that uses lasers to offer deaf people the ability to hear. This is made possible using a low-power infrared diode – similar to those found in laser-pointers. It seemed that exposing oyster toadfish hair cells (which are actually analogous to the cells that are found in humans’ inner ears) to infrared light will result in having them release neurotransmitters and activate adjacent neurons. This will, in turn, lead to laser-based ear implants that are able to stimulate focused areas of cells with thousands of sound wavelengths. They’re now looking to work on tinier and more efficient power supplies as well as the right light sources so that such optical hearing aids will be able to roll off an assembly line somewhere.
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