Cochlear implants (CI) are the most successful sensory prosthetic devices developed to date, as judged by their ability to restore sensory and motor function (i.e. hearing and normal speech patterns) in the profoundly deaf. With 1 in 7 of the population affected by hearing impairment, and an increasingly ageing population Europe-wide, sensory therapies for hearing are critical for the future physical, social and economic health of the European Union. Nevertheless, considerable progress remains to be made if CI users are to be able to hear and communication in even moderately challenging ‘cocktail party’ environments, where sources must be localized and individual conversations heard out from a background of multiple talkers, room reverberations and extraneous noise sources. This requires two-eared, or binaural, hearing. To this end, the next generation of cochlear implants will be binaural and feature semi-automated fitting procedures, aided by the objective measurement of evoked brain responses. The restoration of binaural hearing, the ability to integrate information from the two ears is critical to hearing performance. Although bilateral implantation (an independent implant in each ear) provides some opportunity for this, the temporal information required to achieve true binaural hearing is completely absent. The current proposal will develop the first generation of binaural implants capable of exploiting the temporal information arriving at each ear to provide true cocktail party listening for deaf individuals using cochlear implants, and a new generation of medical devices that take account of the requirements of the binaural brain to restore effective hearing. Significant benefit will accrue to the SME, Neurelec, in the development of new stimulation algorithms and research interfaces, and both they and hearing-impaired individuals will benefit from the development of a sensory technology designed to enhance communication over the life course.
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Funding SchemeCP-FP - Small or medium-scale focused research project