Electrical Stimulation of the Ear in Man

  • F. Blair Simmons
Part of the Handbook of Sensory Physiology book series (SENSORY, volume 5 / 3)


Probably no single topic about hearing has generated as much speculation and controversy as has electrical stimulation of the ear and of hearing. Ever since Volta’s (1800) observation of “sounds like the boiling of soup” when he placed electrodes in his own ears, men of various persuasions have sought to use “electrical stimulation” for diagnosis or elimination of ear disease, the cure of deafness, and also occasionally to better understand hearing for its own sake. A certain confusion still exists today about what happens when an audio frequency current is applied in or near the ear, because, there is more than one form of electrical hearing. Volta, for example, may have truly heard the sound of “boiling soup” because of electrolysis bubbles with his DC current through saline in his ear canals. He also may have actually stimulated the auditory nerve. Instead, he may have experienced electrophonic hearing — a sensory phenomenon peculiar to the ear which is in fact just another pathway for acoustic stimulation of hearing. Because various electrophonic effects have many times been confused with direct stimulation of the cochlea and nerve, it is important to describe the phenomenon in some detail here.


Electrical Stimulation Auditory Nerve Rectangular Pulse Round Window Difference Limen 
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© Springer-Verlag, Berlin · Heidelberg 1976

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  • F. Blair Simmons

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