Improved cochlear implant promises deaf people crisper quality of sound

BY newsdesk  October 23, 2013 at 11:10 AM EDT

Miles O’Brien reports for Science Nation* on new technological advances which researchers hope will help deaf people hear better.

Cochlear implants help deaf people perceive sound; they convert sound waves into electrical signals that are sent directly to the brain. But for those with the implants — approximately 188,000 people worldwide — the sound can be muffled, dampened and far from perfect.

Engineer Pamela Bhatti and other researchers at Georgia Institute of Technology are creating a better cochlear implant that can improve the sound quality for those who can’t hear without them. Their implant’s thin-film electrode array is up to three times more sensitive than traditional wire electrodes, without adding bulk. They hope their design will improve the signal between the array and the nervous system, which as a result, will lead to better quality of sound for users.

*Editorial note: Science Nation is a publication of the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF is an underwriter of PBS NewsHour.