For some profoundly deaf patients, the development of cochlear implants in recent years has been an important change.
The system works by placing approximately 20 electrodes to directly stimulate the nerves in the inner ear, but it has its limitations, with users finding it hard to appreciate music or communicate in a noisy environment.
This is because there are as many as 3,000 “hair cells” in a healthy ear, contributing to a far more detailed interpretation of sound than the implant can provide…
Surgeons who used lasers to perform a surgical procedure in the ear discovered that they were able to stimulate the nerve cells there to send an electrical message back to the brain.
Exactly why this happens is unclear, although Dr Richter believes that the heat that accompanies the light may be responsible. … However, the narrow beam possible using light rather than an electrode offers the possibility of a far more precise targeting of these neurons. – bbc
Encouraging. I’d like to never go deaf.