Stimulation of the cochlea using green laser light

G. I. Wenzel, S. Balster, H. H. Lim, K. Zhang, U. Reich, H. Lubatschowski, W. Ertmer, T. Lenarz, G. Reuter

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The success of conventional hearing aids and electrical cochlear implants have generally been limited to hearing in quiet situations, in part due to a lack of localized (i.e., frequency specificity) sensorineural activation and subsequent impaired speech discrimination in noise. Laser light is a source of energy that can be focused in a controlled manner and may provide more localized activation of the inner ear, the cochlea. Compound action potentials have been elicited using 2.12 um laser pulses through activation of auditory nerve fibers (Izzo et al. 2006). Laser stimulation (813 nm) of the cochlea has shown to induce basilar membrane motion and cochlear microphonic potentials (Fridberger et al. 2006). We sought to assess if visible light (green, 532 nm, 10 ns pulses) could be used to consistently activate the cochlea. The laser parameters were selected based on our initial attempt to induce an optoacoustic effect as the energy transfer mechanism to the cochlea. Click evoked auditory brainstem responses (AABRs) were recorded preoperatively in ketamine-anesthetized guinea pigs to confirm normal hearing. The bulla and then the cochlea were exposed. Optically evoked ABRs (OABR) were recorded in response to laser stimulation with a 50 μm optical fiber (532 nm, 10 ns pulses, 500 repetitions, 10 pulses/s; Nd:YAG laser) at the round window (RW) directed towards the basilar membrane (BM). OABRs similar in morphology to acoustically evoked ABRs, except for shorter latencies, were obtained for stimulation through the RW with energy levels between 1.7-30 μJ/pulse. The OABRs increased with increasing energy level reaching a saturation level around 13-15 μJ/pulse. Furthermore the responses remained consistent across stimulation over time, including stimulation at 13 μJ/pulse for over 30 minutes, indicating minimal or no damage within the cochlea with this type of laser stimulation. Overall we have demonstrated that laser light stimulation with 532 nm has potential for a new type of auditory prosthesis that can activate the cochlea without any apparent functional damage. Further studies are needed to determine the optimal laser parameters and fiber placement locations for localized and tonotopic activation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number71611Z
JournalProgress in Biomedical Optics and Imaging - Proceedings of SPIE
StatePublished - 2009
EventPhotonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics V - San Jose, CA, United States
Duration: Jan 24 2009Jan 26 2009


  • ABR
  • Auditory prosthesis
  • Cochlear implant
  • Nd:YAG laser
  • Optoacoustic


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