Bionic ears and how they change the brain

30 years ago the potential for deaf children to communicate verbally was greatly diminished. Now with bionic ears, and educational support, people with even a profound hearing loss can speak clearly and confidently – many even learn multiple languages.

5 year old bilateral cochlear implant recipient Alana Brown has a passion for music and dancing. Alana was born profoundly deaf and received her first cochlear implant at 16 months and her second at 22 months. Alana’s family have written a poem about the change this made in their lives

We cried the day that we found out,
she could not hear a whisper even a shout.

Sounds of music and birds that sing
she couldn’t hear a single thing.

Now a miracle has made her hear,
it bought us hope and joy and many more tears.

Now our girl can hear these things,
can dance and move and even sing

Doctors and audiologists observed that children implanted early in life like Alana respond very well to communications training.

This was thought to be the result of brain plasticity – the ability of the brain to re-organize itself by forming new connections between brain cells (neurons) via new experiences.

In the case of the bionic ear, the new experience is sound, from the device stimulating the auditory nerve in the cochlea.

Research such as the Bionics Institute research project
The bionic ear and brain plasticity
has produced results to support this theory.

James and the team will continue to explore the nature of plasticity and other remarkable traits of the brain stimulated by bionic ears.

This will lead to a future filled with more opportunities for kids like Alana.

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