The hearing performance with conventional hearing aids and cochlear implants is dramatically reduced in noisy environments and for sounds more complex than speech (e. g. music), partially due to the lack of localized sensorineural activation across different frequency regions with these devices. Laser light can be focused in a controlled manner and may provide more localized activation of the inner ear, the cochlea. We sought to assess whether visible light with parameters that could induce an optoacoustic effect (532nm, 10-ns pulses) would activate the cochlea. Auditory brainstem responses (ABRs) were recorded preoperatively in anesthetized guinea pigs to confirm normal hearing. After opening the bulla, a 50-μm core-diameter optical fiber was positioned in the round window niche and directed toward the basilar membrane. Optically induced ABRs (OABRs), similar in shape to those of acoustic stimulation, were elicited with single pulses. The OABR peaks increased with energy level (0.6to23μJ/pulse) and remained consistent even after 30minutes of continuous stimulation at 13μJ, indicating minimal or no stimulation-induced damage within the cochlea. Our findings demonstrate that visible light can effectively and reliably activate the cochlea without any apparent damage. Further studies are in progress to investigate the frequency-specific nature and mechanism of green light cochlear activation.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank the German Research Foundation (Transregio 37) for funding our project, Isaac Ayala for the illustration in Fig. 1, and Peter Erfurt for technical support.
- Nd:YAG laser
- auditory brainstem response (ABR)
- auditory prosthesis
- cochlear implant