Will Deaf People Be Able to “Hear” Through Their Tongues?

Researchers at Colorado State University are mapping human tongues with the hope of teaching the tongue to hear with the device they are creating. This device could give the deaf community more choices if they want to hear, currently their only choice is a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant allows severely deaf people or hard of hearing individuals the opportunity to regain their sense of sound. These devices can be costly, coming with a $100,000 price tag and a surgery as well.

CSU is finally offering a potential option, which will be providing a similar outcome of the cochlear implant. It won’t restore hearing, but rather it will convert it into sounds which have distinct patterns of vibration that can be felt by the tongue. It will help wearers interpret the sensations they feel as sounds or words. This device is linked to a Bluetooth enabled earpiece which transmits sounds to a processor which then converts them into a pattern of impulses that represent a word.These signals are then sent to a smart retainer held in the mouth. When the user presses their tongue against the mouthpiece, tiny electrodes within the device send out patterns of impulses that stimulate nerves on the tongue, which then fire and relay the signals to the brain.

It can take the user a few months to learn how to use the device, but once they train their tongue and brain to work together it will be a seamless process. This will finally give people options when it comes to restoring their hearing.


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