Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant is an electronic device created for people, and most often children, with a certain kind of significant hearing loss known as sensorineural hearing loss. A cochlear implant bypasses damaged hair cells in a part of the inner ear known as the cochlea. The device consists of an implanted (internal) receiver and electrodes, and an external microphone, speech processor and transmitter.

Jay Rubinstein and Les Atlas at the University of Washington are collaborating on a new way of processing the signals in cochlear implants to help people hear music better. Professor Atlas's research in the past was supported by the CSNE. Students taking part in CSNE summer research experience programs have worked in the Rubinstein lab.

UW PhD Elle O'Brien, who works in the Rubinstein Lab, shares her research challenges in building a better cochlear implant in this NPR story. O'Brien won the local Perfect Pitch competition in 2014 and represented the CSNE at the national competition held in Washington, D.C. She came in second place at the national competition.

KidsHealth offers student-friendly reading and background information on cochlear implants.

Students can explore mild, moderate and severe hearing loss using this online simulator created by Starkey Hearing Technologies.

The University of Texas at Dallas also has listening demos of what human speech and music may sound like to someone with a cochlear implant.

"Sound and Fury" is an Academy Award-nominated documentary that was released in 2000. The documentary focused on the Artinian family, which had deaf and hearing members across three generations. The film followed the debate on cochlear implant surgery for a young family member, Heather. A short follow-up film, "Sound and Fury: Six Years Later," provided an update on Heather Artinian.

The article, "Bionic Senses" from Harvard University, provides background information about how neuroprosthetics can help restore sight and hearing through the use of cochlear and retinal implants.