Reports that the "deaf" can hear through electrical stimulation of the ear have appeared periodically for at least 100 years. The latest cycle of reports began innocently in 1962 after Life (Sept 14) published an article about a high school student who "rediscovered" one type of electrical hearing. This cycle has since been continued, even sometimes in medical literature, by biologically naive engineers.1 The public response has sometimes been a tragic problem for the otologist who must answer negatively the hopeful inquiries of deaf patients.
Contrary to the enthusiastic claims, however, the majority of such "hearing" has been in response to an ordinary acoustic wave traveling mainly by bone conduction. The sound is produced by poorly understood semiconductor properties of the skin under an electrode whenever an audio frequency current is applied. Sometimes excellent acoustic fidelity is achieved, but normal or near-normal cochlear function is required. The deaf who
ELECTRICAL HEARING. JAMA. 1966;197(2):138-139. doi:10.1001/jama.1966.03110020126041