Hearing loss can severely impact a person’s life, causing problems with communication, education, employment and social inclusion. In Australia alone, around 3.6 million people are affected by hearing impairment. This year hearing impairment is estimated to cost the Australian economy $16 billion.
For over thirty years the Bionics Institute has conducted research to help prevent or improve outcomes for people with deafness and hearing impairment. Ongoing research is vital to improve outcomes for people with hearing loss and reduce the burden on the community.
At the Bionics Institute, we are currently carrying out a wide range of research projects with a common goal – to improve clinical outcomes for cochlear implant recipients, and those with hearing impairment. To achieve this, we apply our unique multidisciplinary approach and use diverse experimental tools – from brain imaging and smart engineering to nanotechnology and gene therapy.
How does the cochlear implant work?
The cochlear implant is designed to produce hearing sensations by electrically stimulating the inner ear’s auditory nerves that relay sound information to the brain. This device consists of an implanted electrode array within the cochlea and a stimulator which is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear. An external sound processor, which sits behind the ear (similar to a hearing aid), captures sounds and converts them into a digital code. This information is sent wirelessly to the stimulator which converts the coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array. This stimulates the auditory neurons which send impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.