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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Special Section:
Focus on Communication

NIH Research to Results

  • NIDCD-funded researchers from Northwestern University are trying to develop a cochlear implant that uses light, not electrodes, to stimulate the auditory nerve. The goal is a more precise implant to help those with profound hearing loss to distinguish speech in noisy environments.
  • An NIDCD-funded research team says it might be possible in the future to restore hearing with a genetic message telling the inner ear to grow new hair cells. Hair cells are tiny structures within the cochlea of the inner ear that convert sound waves into electrical impulses that the auditory nerve carries to the brain. Excessive noise, certain medications, aging, and disease can damage or destroy hair cells. Since the human ear is unable to replace hair cells, our hearing declines as they are lost. Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University transferred genes into the inner ears of embryonic mice and grew new hair cells.

Fall 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 4 Page 12