Filed under: Computers
Today, most people suffering from hearing loss can choose to either buy a hearing aid, or, in extreme cases, have a cochlear implant placed in their problematic ear. Both options, however, have their drawbacks. Hearing aids can be cumbersome, implants can completely destroy any hearing left in an ear, and neither method ever replicates the same quality of perception that the natural ear allows. Scientists have been trying to come up with less invasive, drug-based methods to treat hearing loss, but have so far been unable to find a way to introduce pharmaceutical treatment to the deep inner ear, where most problems originate. Researchers at Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, however, have recently developed a device that could finally penetrate the darker depths of the human ear, and deliver medication in a timely and measured way.
The gadget, which is no bigger than a AA battery, consists of a pump and drug reservoir, and is implanted directly into the temporal bone of the ear. An attached tube, meanwhile, delivers the treatment directly into the cochlea. The team at Draper has already tested the device on guinea pigs, and, according to Technology Review, administered the drugs without causing any damage to the animals’ ears. In order to use the device on humans, though, they’ll have to make it still smaller, but the scientists are hopeful that they can have their brainchild ready for clinical testing within five years.