Tongue Technology May Enable ‘Hearing’ Engineers and neuroscientists at Colorado State University are developing a mouthpiece that may help people with hearing loss to understand spoken words. The technology includes a microphone attached to a Bluetooth earpiece. The earpiece detects words and transmits them to a receiver-processor, which converts them into distinct patterns and sends ... News in Brief
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News in Brief  |   April 01, 2015
Tongue Technology May Enable ‘Hearing’
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Hearing Disorders / Hearing Aids, Cochlear Implants & Assistive Technology / Professional Issues & Training / News in Brief
News in Brief   |   April 01, 2015
Tongue Technology May Enable ‘Hearing’
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB4.20042015.16
The ASHA Leader, April 2015, Vol. 20, 16. doi:10.1044/leader.NIB4.20042015.16
Engineers and neuroscientists at Colorado State University are developing a mouthpiece that may help people with hearing loss to understand spoken words.
The technology includes a microphone attached to a Bluetooth earpiece. The earpiece detects words and transmits them to a receiver-processor, which converts them into distinct patterns and sends them to an electrode-loaded retainer fitted to the roof of the wearer’s mouth. The wearer presses his or her tongue to the retainer to feel the distinct pattern—as a tingling or vibrating sensation. With training, the brain is able to interpret that pattern and understand spoken words.
“It’s much simpler than undergoing surgery and we think it will be a lot less expensive than cochlear implants,” says John Williams, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the project lead.
Williams’ own tinnitus motivated his search for a “sensory substitute” for hearing. He focused on the tongue, because it contains thousands of nerves and because of its hypersensitive ability to discern between tactile sensations.
The idea is that the user’s brain will learn to interpret specific patterns as words, allowing someone to “hear” through the tongue—much like fingers can “read” Braille.
The researchers have built and tested prototypes, filed a provisional patent for the technology, and launched a start-up company.
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April 2015
Volume 20, Issue 4