Skip to main content
Accessibility|Contact|Privacy|Terms of Service

Wireless Cochlear Implants

  • Published: 2014-02-10 (Revised/Updated 2016-09-24) : Author: Massachusetts Institute of Technology : Contact: Abby Abazorius - abbya@mit.edu - Ph. 617-253-2709
  • Synopsis: Researchers design a cochlear implant that can be wirelessly recharged and uses the natural microphone of the middle ear rather than a skull-mounted sensor.

Main Document

"The researchers' design exploits the mechanism of a different type of medical device, known as a middle-ear implant."

Cochlear implants "medical devices that electrically stimulate the auditory nerve "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 over-sized hearing aid around the patient's ear.

Researchers at MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratory (MTL), together with physicians from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI), 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.

The researchers describe their chip in a paper they're presenting this week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. The paper's lead author "Marcus Yip, who completed his PhD at MIT last fall "and his colleagues Rui Jin and Nathan Ickes, both graduate students in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will also exhibit a prototype charger that plugs into an ordinary cell phone and can recharge the signal-processing chip in roughly two minutes.

"The idea with this design is that you could use a phone, with an adapter, to charge the cochlear implant, so you don't have to be plugged in," says Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and corresponding author on the new paper. "Or you could imagine a smart pillow, so you charge overnight, and the next day, it just functions."

Adaptive reuse

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 researchers' design exploits the mechanism of a different type of medical device, known as a middle-ear implant. Delicate bones in the middle ear, known as ossicles, convey the vibrations of the eardrum to the cochlea, the small, spiral chamber in the inner ear that converts acoustic signals to electrical. In patients with middle-ear implants, the cochlea is functional, but one of the ossicles "the stapes "doesn't vibrate with enough force to stimulate the auditory nerve. A middle-ear implant consists of a tiny sensor that detects the ossicles' vibrations and an actuator that helps drive the stapes accordingly.

The new device would use the same type of sensor, but the signal it generates would travel to a microchip implanted in the ear, which would convert it to an electrical signal and pass it on to an electrode in the cochlea. Lowering the power requirements of the converter chip was the key to dispensing with the skull-mounted hardware.

Chandrakasan's lab at MTL specializes in low-power chips, and the new converter deploys several of the tricks that the lab has developed over the years, such as tailoring the arrangement of low-power filters and amplifiers to the precise acoustic properties of the incoming signal.

But Chandrakasan and his colleagues also developed a new signal-generating circuit that reduces the chip's power consumption by an additional 20 to 30 percent. The key was to specify a new waveform "the basic electrical signal emitted by the chip, which is modulated to encode acoustic information "that is more power-efficient to generate but still stimulates the auditory nerve in the appropriate way.

Verification

The waveform was based on prior research involving simulated nerve fibers, but the MIT researchers tailored it for cochlear implants and found a low-power way to implement it in hardware. Two of their collaborators at MEEI "Konstantina Stankovic, an ear surgeon who co-led the study with Chandrakasan, and Don Eddington "tested it on four patients who already had cochlear implants and found that it had no effect on their ability to hear. Working with another collaborator at MEEI, Heidi Nakajima, the researchers have also demonstrated that the chip and sensor are able to pick up and process speech played into a the middle ear of a human cadaver.

Similar Topics

1 : Using Sign Language Builds Phrases with Similar Neural Mechanisms as Speaking : New York University.
2 : Hearing Charities of America's Hearing Aid Project Changing Lives with Donor's Help : Hearing Charities of America.
3 : Brain Imaging Predicts Language Learning in Deaf Children : Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago.
4 : Sign Language Comparative List of Astronomical Words : International Astronomical Union.
5 : Sign Language May Offer Answer to Meaning of Music : New York University.
From our Deaf Communication section - Full List (64 Items)


Submit disability news, coming events, as well as assistive technology product news and reviews.


Loan Information for low income singles, families, seniors and disabled. Includes home, vehicle and personal loans.


Famous People with Disabilities - Well known people with disabilities and conditions who contributed to society.


List of awareness ribbon colors and their meaning. Also see our calendar of awareness dates.


Blood Pressure Chart - What should your blood pressure be, and information on blood group types/compatibility.





1 : Teaching Baby Sign Language - Nita, Show Us More
2 : MitoQ Novel Antioxidant Makes Old Arteries Seem Young Again
3 : Telemedicine Helps Overcome Healthcare Gender Based Barriers
4 : Screen Reader Plus Keyboard Helps Blind, Low-Vision Users Browse Modern Webpages
5 : Our Digital Remains Should be Treated with Same Care and Respect as Physical Remains
6 : Tungsten: Concern Over Possible Health Risk by Human Exposure to Tungsten
7 : Student Loan Discharge Process for Disabled Veterans Made Easier
8 : Growing Bone and Cartilage Tissues for Humans from Flaxseed Like Particles


Disclaimer: This site does not employ and is not overseen by medical professionals. Content on Disabled World is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. See our Terms of Service for more information.

Reporting Errors: Disabled World is an independent website, your assistance in reporting outdated or inaccurate information is appreciated. If you find an error please let us know.

© 2004 - 2018 Disabled World™