The Bionic Ear
The cochlear implant, or bionic ear, is used to provide hearing in patients that are deaf due to damage to sensory hair cells in their cochlea. In those patients, they can often enable sufficient hearing to allow unaided understanding of speech. The quality of sound is different from natural hearing, with less sound information being received and processed by the brain. However, many patients are able to hear and understand speech and environmental sounds. Newer devices and processing strategies allow recipients to hear better in noise, enjoy music, and even use their implant processors while swimming.
Cochlear implants work through “cutting out the middle man.” Instead of using the stereocilia to transmit sound via gated ion channels, the implant will Fourier transform the incoming vibrations and feed the transformed signals directly to the auditory nerve for brain processing.