Cochlear Implant Update

Cochlear implants have granted at least limited hearing to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide who otherwise would be totally deaf. Existing versions of the device, however, require that a disk-shaped transmitter about an inch in diameter be affixed to the skull, with a wire snaking down to a joint microphone and power source that looks like an oversized hearing aid around the patient’s ear.

Researchers have developed a new, low-power signal-processing chip that could lead to a cochlear implant that requires no external hardware. The implant would be wirelessly recharged and would run for about eight hours on each charge. You could use a phone, with an adaptor, to charge the cochlear implant or you could imagine a smart pillow, so you charge overnight, and the next day, it just functions.

Existing cochlear implants use an external microphone to gather sound, but the new implant would instead use the natural microphone of the middle ear, which is almost always intact in cochlear-implant patients.

The new cochlear implant would require a more complex surgery than existing implants do. A current cochlear-implant operation takes an hour, hour and a half but this surgery may will take three to four hours. But he doubts that that would be much of an obstacle to adoption.

Based on an article : Larry Hardesty, MIT News Office