Professor Hugh McDermott

Prof Hugh McDermott

Chief Technology Officer BAppSc (Hons) (Electronics), PhD

Prof Hugh McDermott

Professor Hugh McDermott is the Chief Technology Officer of the Bionics Institute and also holds honorary appointments as a Professorial Fellow at The University of Melbourne in the Departments of Medical Bionics and Audiology & Speech Pathology. In 2006, Hugh was appointed to the newly created Chair of Auditory Communication and Signal Processing at the University of Melbourne as full professor. He held that position until he joined the Bionics Institute as Deputy Director in 2010. Hugh was appointed CTO in December 2017.

In recognition of his world-renowned research in signal processing, electronic design, and perception, Hugh is an elected Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA), the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), and the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences (AAHMS). In 2009, he was the first recipient of the Callier Prize in Communication Disorders, an award from the University of Texas, USA, for leadership “that has fostered scientific advances and significant developments in the diagnosis and treatment of communication disorders”.

Hugh is an inventor on over 25 patent families. Several of his inventions have been successfully implemented in commercial products available worldwide, including:

  • The Speak/ACE sound-processing scheme for cochlear implants which is the highly successful basis of all CI systems manufactured and sold by the Australian company Cochlear Ltd for over 20 years. Cochlear Ltd continues to dominate the world market for cochlear implants.
  • A frequency-compression scheme for acoustic hearing aids – SoundRecover – which improves the perception of high-frequency sounds and thereby increases speech intelligibility. SoundRecover is available in almost all instruments sold by the world’s largest manufacturer of hearing aids, Phonak AG (a subsidiary of Sonova), based in Switzerland. Phonak sells over 1 million hearing instruments in approximately 100 countries each year.
  • Electronic circuit designs for cochlear implants and other neurostimulators. As a PhD student, Hugh completed all aspects of the design and layout of a custom receiver-stimulator chip that implemented several unique technical features. Innovations arising from that development have been incorporated into the implant systems manufactured commercially by Cochlear Ltd today.

Hugh has contributed to the design, development, and evaluation of neurostimulation devices, particularly cochlear implants and biomedical signal-processing systems, for over 35 years. In the past 10 years his work has extended into the fields of prosthetic vision and brain stimulation. The latter research aims to treat conditions such as movement disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, by electric stimulation of selected brain targets.

Hugh has authored or co-authored over 110 journal articles (excluding conference papers), seven book chapters, and about 200 additional publications. On more than 100 occasions he has been invited to present lectures to international conferences and corporate workshops. He also regularly presents public seminars and participates in workshops with community groups.

Selected Publications of Professor Hugh McDermott

  1. Brochier, T., C. McKay, and H. McDermott. 2018. Encoding speech in cochlear implants using simultaneous amplitude and rate modulation. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. 144(4): 2042-2051. doi: 1121/1.5055989.
  2. Sinclair, N. C., H. J. McDermott, K. J. Bulluss, J. B. Fallon, T. Perera, S. S. Xu, P. Brown, and W. Thevathasan. 2018. Subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation evokes resonant neural activity. Annals of Neurology: [epub ahead of print]. doi: 1002/ana.25234Full Text
  3. McDermott HJ: Neurobionics: treatments for disorders of the central nervous system. Chapter 8 in: Neurobionics: The Biomedical Engineering of Neural Prostheses, ed. RK Shepherd, pp 213-230, Wiley, 2016.
  4. Wouters J, McDermott HJ, Francart T. Sound coding in cochlear implants: From electric pulses to hearing. IEEE Signal Processing Magazine, 32(2): 67-80, March 2015. doi: 10.1109/MSP.2014.2371671.
  5. McDermott HJ. A technical comparison of digital frequency-lowering algorithms available in two current hearing aids. PLoS One 6(7):e22358.


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