This is a hypothetical and feel free to ignore if it doesn't pique your interest.
We are rapidly approaching a turning point in biology and medicine where instead of creating prosthetics to overcome handicaps, we are beginning to interface directly with nerves to restore sight and hearing to people.
I think it's only a matter of time before they begin offering higher quality versions of these as elective surgeries for healthy people and I was wondering what the rest of the community thought of that.
Imagine a device that is implanted in your skull that interfaces directly with the auditory nerve, allowing you to hear music, or whatever you wanted, without the use of headphones and even if you had hearing damage or loss of use from old age?
Imagine never having to worry about hurting your hearing by listening to loud music. Imagine never losing access to higher frequencies as you get older because of age related hearing loss. You could listen to music discreetly and comfortably, while you swim, in class, while your wife is talking to you about that thing her friend did, while you bathe, while you sleep....
I would imagine the most practical application would be a short range wireless connection to the implant, like a small transmitter that could sit behind your ear, beaming information and power to the implant inside your head, and that transmitter would connect to your Ipod or whatever you wanted it to.
Then there are the truly profound uses. Our hearing range is limited by our physiology, not our neurons. What if they configured these devices to allow for the reception of ultrasonic and ultra low frequency sounds? Imagine being able to hear the world as a dog might, and expanding your senses beyond what is available naturally. What if there were textures, and sounds that are truly beautiful, if we only had the ears to hear them.
Then there are the practical benefits, no acoustic resonances, gaps, bumps, frequency ranges. You could have an absolutely flat frequency response since nothing is ever delivered mechanically. Gone would be sibilance and sparkle, grain, and coloration. And you would never have to worry about damaging your hearing.....Your normal ears of course would continue to function as nature designed. Turn the implant off and you get all of those problems back if you want them.
I think I would sell my house to have something like that. The thought of needing a hearing aid some day scares me.....it conjures images of Beethoven sawing the legs off his piano so it sat on the floor and kneeling there, pounding on the keys trying to feel the sound....
Edited by Kodhifi - 1/9/13 at 1:55pm