Hearing aid uses tongue to process sound

A new kind of hearing aid is being developed that will be worn in the mouth and communicate sounds through vibrations felt on the tongue.

The team working on the device at Colorado State University hope that the device will end up as a cheaper alternative to a cochlear implant.

A device about the size of a dental retainer would convert sound into vibrations that would be detected by the tongue.

Professor John Williams, who is leading the project and suffers from hearing loss, said: “We’re taking and substituting touch on the tongue, with signals designed especially for that, that the brain could utilize over time and substitute for hearing.”

The hearing aid won’t be ready for public use for about two years while the team carry out detailed tests including 'tongue mapping'.

The scientists hope that the device, once available, would cost a few thousand dollars – compared with around $40,000 for a cochlear implant.