German Scientists Allow Deaf Children to Hear Light

December 2022

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Sciences and the Institute for Auditory Neuroscience in Göttingen have come up with a treatment for synaptic deafness in very young, hearing-impaired children.

Its centerpiece are so-called optical cochlear implants to correct defects in the inner ear. Unlike conventional electrical implants, they use light to allow recipients to hear. This optogenetic technology promises to dramatically improve artificial hearing, but it is best used in very small children who have not yet learned to speak.

“A lot of synaptic connections are expanded and reconfigured during the first years of life,” explained neuroscientist and physician Professor Tobias Moser on the Max Planck Institute website. “If too few acoustic impulses come from the ears during this phase, many connections don’t form correctly.”

Moser is a recipient of the prestigious Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. Research in this area has been going on since the 1970s. Tests of e technology on human beings are planned for 2026.

© Institute for Auditory Neuroscience