Device Uses Bluetooth-Enabled Mouthpiece to Let the Tongue "Hear"

In the future, those with substantial hearing loss may no longer need a doctor to surgically implant a cochlear device into their ear to restore their sense of sound. Engineers at Colorado State University are developing a hearing device that bypasses the ear altogether. The CSU device operates very similarly to a cochlear device except electric impulses are sent via Bluetooth to a retainer-like mouthpiece packed with electrodes. When users press their tongue against the device, they feel a distinct pattern of electric impulses as a tingling or vibrating sensation. The idea is that, with training, the brain will learn to interpret specific patterns as words, thus allowing someone to 'hear' with their tongue. A CSU neuroscientist who studies taste receptors on the tongue is helping the team determine which parts of the tongue detect electrical impulses, and if those areas are consistent from person to person. They have launched a new study in which participants place an array of electrodes in their mouth and report where they feel electrical impulses and how strong they are.