We’re used to hearing about light therapy as a treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the consensus seems to be that it does do some good. We tend to think of the light as entering via our eyes in the traditional manner though, and there seem to be some other options:
Valkee have started producing SAD lighting treatments which are delivered via the ear canals, directly into the brain. Users wear what looks like an mp3 player (available in black and white and rather pretending to be an iPod) with a pair of earbuds which shine bright white light instead of playing sounds. Their idea is nothing to do with the ears themsleves – the ear canals just provide a simple way of getting light onto the surface of the brain, which they claim is photosensitive.
I suppose if you’re wearing them on public transport and someone asks you what you’re listening to, you can always say it’s The Velvet Underground’ s _White Light White Heat_.
Is the idea flakey? Rather. Is it real and effective? I have no idea as yet – it will be interesting to see what eventually comes out of this – whether it will be remembered as just another piece of quackery or the birth of an effective treatment. It has been written up in a peer reviewed journal, but as the following link indicates, perhaps not all that peer reviewed: http://www.arcticstartup.com/2012/02/14/valkee-peer-reviewed.
One tangentially interesting bit of research – there’s been some talk about light absorbed through the skin affecting haemoglobin and indirectly affecting seasonal affective disorder. We talk about it here.
In the meantime perhaps you should do what my wife suggested when I told her about this research, and stick some Christmas tree lights in your ears 🙂