The power and uses of LED technology continue to expand and surprise. The ability to hear would seem like an area where LEDs would never have any specific use, but alas, research by Tobias Moser at the University Medical Center Göttingen in Germany has shown there may be a breakthrough here after all, and LED calibration is at the very center of it.
Cochlear implants are, to put it mildly, not optimal. As useful as they are for the deaf and hearing impaired, they are far from being remarkable. Those who have a regular level of human hearing capabilities can distinguish between around 2000 different sound variations, whereas the deaf with cochlear implants can only discern between around 12. This imbalance is the problem. A recent article noted the similarity between the sound of human speech when filtered through a cochlear implant to what a Dalek sounds like from the Dr. Who series (EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!). Fuzzy and cackled, the implants allow for only some relief for the deaf.
But recent breakthroughs using LED technology may be reversing this, and, potentially, allowing those with hearing disabilities to begin to hear the world in its full beauty. The solution to this is expanding the number of sound variations and frequencies a cochlear implant can attune to. Mr. Tobias Moser believes this can be done by using ontogenetics. Each channel in a cochlear implant must stimulate a nerve in order to create a sound frequency to the listener; this has been traditionally done using electricity, but electricity often merges in human tissue, making for a muddled sound that isn’t of great use (hence, the only 12 useful channels).
Enter light, specifically LED technology. According to Moser: “You can focus light more conveniently than current.” And because of this, you can create additional frequencies and expand the number of sound variations that an implant can generate. Moser’s team is using micro-LED technology with the hopes of taking that dozen or so frequencies into the 100s. This optogenetic concept has shown to be useful in mice, and further trials are planned with the end goal of highly sophisticated LED-powered hearing implants.
According to Moser, these human trials are still years away, as they need to find ways to improve implanted micro-LEDs life capabilities. This is the kind of technology Gooch & Housego thrives in and hopes to push further into the future. Accurate and precise LED test and measurement will be crucial in fine tuning the capabilities of devices, such as cochlear implants. The future of LED technology is wide, and, hopefully, loud.