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Lick and Listen

By Angela Rolls
Managing Editor

Tongue to Hear Take a moment to listen to each sound surrounding you. What information is being relayed? How are you able to interpret your environment based upon what you are hearing? How does what you hear influence how you react? Now cover your ears. How does this all change?

Imagine communicating and interpreting your world while only being able to hear muffled sounds or complete silence.

Now imagine being able to use an electronic device and your tongue to decipher and transmit sound to your brain. A recent article by Colorado State University unveils such a device, designed by a graduate student and two professors, which utilizes electrodes and sensory nerves in the tongue to teach the brain to hear.

Tongue to Hear Sensory substitution devices (SSDs) have the potential to create a new world for those facing sensory impairment. The tongue, which has nerves for both feeling and tasting, has been used with SSDs in the past but they have primarily focused on visual substitution.

The new device uses electrodes to turn sound waves into electrical impulses and touch nerves in the tongue to train the brain to interpret them. Though they are still designing and testing their device, the trio are hopeful that they will be able to provide a less costly and non-invasive alternative to the surgical cochlear implant for the 360 million people worldwide suffering from substantial hearing impairment.

Read the article for more details.

Do you have experience with SSDs? We would love for you to share your story with us at [email protected].
Angela Rolls holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication Studies from Grand Valley State University and is the Managing Editor at Jameco Electronics. Originally from Michigan, she currently resides in California's Silicon Valley. Her interests include animals, traveling, writing, science and photography.