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Listen: How Music Sounds to People with Cochlear implants

2012-08-09

A cochlear implant, or “bionic ear” if you’re into that sort of thing, is an implant for those who are either deaf or severely hard of hearing. Specifically, those who are deaf due to a loss /lack of  sensory hair cells in the ear. If you’re a sheltered fool like I am, you probably think this cyber-ear is, like all modern medicine, a miracle cure. Not so.

A Cochlear implant (Warning: extreme oversimplification of incredible technology ahead) in essence replaces the hair cells with wire that conducts a sound into an electric pulse that the cranial nerve can then relay to the brain as said sound. However, a little gets lost in translation.

NOTE: It is important to keep in mind that these clips lack the context of CI/brain interaction. Sound will most likely only come across this way to someone who has only recently recieved an implant and have not yet been rehabilitated.

First you’re hearing the song with a four channel implant, then an eight, then sixteen and 32, then the song as it sounded originally.  To put in perspective, one channel is enough to tell the difference between sound and silence, four is enough to barely discern human speech with most people hearing in 24 channels.

So – is anyone else kind of scared by the clip above?

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