Hear ye, hear ye! If you need a reminder of how incredible medical technology is—or a mesmerizing look at something long and flexible being snaked down a tiny tube—watch the above x-ray video of cochlear implant surgery. It’ll make you look at your ears in a whole new way.
Although they’re certainly not Borg-level tech, cochlear implants are still an impressive advancement in the combination of human and machine for the purpose of restoring lost sensory input. And while the results of the procedure vary widely, the procedure itself is stunning.
For those unfamiliar with the cochlear implant, it is inserted via minimally invasive surgery, and is made up of two parts: an internal component called the “cochlear implant” and an external component called a “speech processor.” The speech processor uses microphones to pick up sounds, and then turns those sounds into signals which are sent to a transmitter (the external component behind the ear). The transmitter then takes those signals and sends them through the skin to the internal implant. There, the coded signals are turned into electrical energy, and sent to the electrode array (the component being installed in the video above). This electrode array, in turn, stimulates the cochlear nerve fibers, and those stimulations are turned into “sound” in the brain. (A really nifty tutorial for this whole procedure can be found here.)
It’s difficult to say what the future of cochlear implants holds, but innovation in the field does seem to be happening at a decent clip. The company behind the video, MED-EL, notes on their site that the cochlear implant is, as of now, “the only medical device capable of replacing a sense.” And while this is definitely a great start toward restoring lost hearing, what about devices for other damaged senses? Something like Lt. Geordie La Forge’s VISOR? Or even ocular implants? As always, we must turn to Star Trek for further inspiration.
What do you think about the video Are they Locutus-approved or not up to Borg standards? Let us know in the comments section below!