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Applied Bionics and Biomechanics
Volume 3 (2006), Issue 1, Pages 61-66
http://dx.doi.org/10.1533/abbi.2005.0035

Alternative Paths to Hearing (A Conjecture). Photonic and Tactile Hearing Systems Displaying the Frequency Spectrum of Sound

E. H. Hara

Faculty of Engineering, University of Regina, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada S4S 0A2

Copyright © 2006 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

In this article, the hearing process is considered from a system engineering perspective. For those with total hearing loss, a cochlear implant is the only direct remedy. It first acts as a spectrum analyser and then electronically stimulates the neurons in the cochlea with a number of electrodes. Each electrode carries information on the separate frequency bands (i.e., spectrum) of the original sound signal. The neurons then relay the signals in a parallel manner to the section of the brain where sound signals are processed. Photonic and tactile hearing systems displaying the spectrum of sound are proposed as alternative paths to the section of the brain that processes sound. In view of the plasticity of the brain, which can rewire itself, the following conjectures are offered. After a certain period of training, a person without the ability to hear should be able to decipher the patterns of photonic or tactile displays of the sound spectrum and learn to ‘hear’. This is very similar to the case of a blind person learning to ‘read’ by recognizing the patterns created by the series of bumps as their fingers scan the Braille writing. The conjectures are yet to be tested. Designs of photonic and tactile systems displaying the sound spectrum are outlined.