Bionics Institute research at world-leading cochlear implant conference
The Conference on Implantable Auditory Prostheses
, held every two years in California, is the pre-eminent cochlear implant conference and brings together researchers and clinicians from the many areas of science and medicine involved in cochlear implant research. It provides an excellent opportunity for the Bionics Institute to continue its long history of contributing to the ongoing improvements in cochlear implant performance.
The Bionics Institute was well represented this year, with Dr James Fallon on the steering committee and Prof Hugh McDermott, Dr James Fallon, and Dr Tom Francart invited to give lectures. Drs Lisa Pettingill
, Andrew Wise
, Jeremy Marozeau
, and Diane Lazard, and PhD student Mr Mohammad Maarfvand, also presented their recent research and were involved in lively discussions about their work.
Sound Processing Strategies
Prof Hugh McDermott
, the Institute’s Deputy Director (Research), spoke on the differences in the sound processing strategies used in cochlear implants compared to those used in auditory brainstem or midbrain implants. The latter two devices may be used when damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve is too severe for a cochlear implant to be of use. Hugh spoke of how observations obtained from perceptual experiments with implant users can be incorporated into sound processing models to improve their performance.
Dr James Fallon
, one of the Institute’s senior research fellows, reported on the brain’s remarkable ability to adapt to the electrical stimulation provided by cochlear implants. His research has focussed on determining the changes to the brain’s organization and encoding abilities as a result of long-term deafness and cochlear implant stimulation. He reported that input from the periphery, either via normal hearing or a cochlear implant, is crucial for the development and/or maintenance of the normal, systematic representation of sound frequency in the auditory cortex. In contrast, the development of temporal processing within auditory cortex is quite robust.
Combining implants and hearing aids (bimodal hearing)
Dr Tom Francart is a post-doctoral research fellow currently visiting the Institute from Belgium. He reported on experiments aimed at developing a unified signal processing strategy for the growing number of people who have a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other (non-implanted) ear. The additional information provided by bimodal stimulation has the potential to improve the perception of a sound’s location, as well as the perception of speech in noisy environments, providing the information provided by the two devices can be coordinated.