Scientists based in Switzerland and South Africa have created a biophysical methodology that may help to overcome hearing deficits, and potentially remedy even substantial hearing loss. The authors propose a method of retuning functioning regions of the ear to recognize frequencies originally associated with damaged areas. Details are published August 29th in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.
Hearing loss is an increasingly important problem in societies of growing average age. The conventional hearing-aid and cochlear implant technology have only been partially successful in recreating the experience of the fully functioning ear.
A possible reason for the lack of success could be because the cochlea - the hearing sensor - must be fully embedded into the corto-cochlear feedback loop. While recent artificial cochleas have been developed that are extremely close to the performance of the biological one, the integration of artificial cochleas into this loop is an extremely difficult micro-surgical task.
In an attempt to circumvent this problem, the authors investigated the biophysics and bio-mechanics of the natural sensor. They have identified modifications that would enable the remapping of frequencies where the cochlea malfunctions to neighboring intact cochlear areas. This remapping is performed in such a way that no auditory information is lost and the tuning capabilities of the cochlea can be fully utilized.
Their findings indicate that biophysically realistic modifications could remedy even substantial hearing loss. Moreover, with a recently designed electronic cochlea at hand, the changes in the perception of hearing could be predicted.
The surgical procedures needed to establish the authors' suggested biophysical corrections have not yet been developed. Recently developed lasers could play a prominent role in these surgical procedures, similar to their role in correcting deficits for another important human sensor, the eye.
PLEASE ADD THIS LINK TO THE PUBLISHED ARTICLE IN ONLINE VERSIONS OF YOUR REPORT: http://dx.
CITATION: Kern A, Heid C, Steeb W-H, Stoop N, Stoop R (2008) Biophysical Parameters Modification Could Overcome Essential Hearing Gaps. PLoS Comput Biol 4(8): e1000161. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000161
Dr. Ruedi Stoop
This press release refers to an upcoming article in PLoS Computational Biology. The release is provided by journal staff [or by the article authors and/or their institutions. Any opinions expressed in this release or article are the personal views of the journal staff and/or article contributors, and do not necessarily represent the views or policies of PLoS. PLoS expressly disclaims any and all warranties and liability in connection with the information found in the releases and articles and your use of such information.
About PLoS Computational Biology
PLoS Computational Biology (www.ploscompbiol.org) features works of exceptional significance that further our understanding of living systems at all scales through the application of computational methods. All works published in PLoS Computational Biology are open access. Everything is immediately available subject only to the condition that the original authorship and source are properly attributed. Copyright is retained by the authors. The Public Library of Science uses the Creative Commons Attribution License.
About the Public Library of Science
The Public Library of Science (PLoS) is a non-profit organization of scientists and physicians committed to making the world's scientific and medical literature a freely available public resource. For more information, visit http://www.