"Full utilization of current implants in this way would be difficult without open access to their internals. Fortunately, threading a 16-spot electrode snake into your cochlea is not the only road to acoustic nirvana. New bone conduction technologies that make Google’s Glass sound downright primitive are already available. Cochlear corporation, one of the three big implant makers in the US, makes a device they recently trademarked as BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid). The BAHA is not your grandpa’s hearing aid; nothing goes inside the ear canal. The key element here is a screw that impedance-matches sound vibrations to your skull, and also provides an anchor for the speech processor and associated electronics.

The weak link for implants has always been communication through the skin. The BAHA’s titanium screw has a special surface treatment that aids in osseointegration (integration with the surrounding bone). The external part of the device then screws in through a gap in the skin. In theory, the entire vibratory stimulator could be put inside the bone implant. The attachment to any external processor, if needed, could be with done similarly to the way the IMS retinal prosthesis does it, with subcutaneous magnets. More likely, however, directly attached external controllers will remain critical components for these devices. Rather than a thick feed through as is the current BAHA design, something more comparable to a body piercing could adequately serve as the physical interface for an even more user-friendly device."