Tags: hearing | aid | cochlear | wireless | mit

MIT Develops New Hearing Implant Without Exterior Hardware

By    |   Monday, 10 Feb 2014 02:47 PM

Thousands of hearing-impaired people worldwide have benefited from cochlear implants — medical devices that work by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. But existing versions of the devices require the use of cumbersome hardware around the ear, as well as a microphone and external power source.
 
But researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new, processing chip that could lead to a wireless cochlear implant that requires no external hardware.
 
"The idea with this design is that you could use a phone, with an adaptor, to charge the cochlear implant, so you don't have to be plugged in," said Anantha Chandrakasan, a professor of electrical engineering detailed the advance in a paper presented this week at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference.. "Or you could imagine a smart pillow, so you charge overnight, and the next day, it just functions."

Cochlear implants have granted at least limited hearing to hundreds of thousands of people who otherwise would be totally deaf. But they require a disc-shaped transmitter about an inch in diameter be affixed to the user's skull, with a wire connecting it to a microphone and power source that looks like an oversized hearing aid around the  ear.
 
But the new device — developed by researchers at MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratory, working with physicians from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary — uses a new, low-power signal-processing chip that could be wirelessly recharged and would run for about eight hours on each charge. The charger that plugs into an ordinary cellphone can recharge the chip in roughly two minutes.
 
Existing cochlear implants use an external microphone, but the new implant uses the natural microphone of the middle ear, which is almost always intact in cochlear-implant patients.

Chandrakasan's lab at MTL specializes in low-power chips, and the new converter deploys several of the tricks that the lab has developed over the years, such as tailoring the arrangement of low-power amplifiers to the precise acoustic properties of the incoming signal.

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MIT researchers have developed a new wireless cochlear implant that requires no external hardware and is more convenient than conventional hearing aids.
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Monday, 10 Feb 2014 02:47 PM
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