Towards pioneering binaural cochlear implants
Cochlear Implants (Cis) are devices that stimulate the auditory nerve through electric pulses. They are an excellent start in bringing sound to those with hearing loss, but only allow for one-ear 'monaural' listening. Normal-hearing individuals use binaural hearing to compare information about sounds from both ears and to locate the source of sound. The EU-funded ABCIT (Advancing binaural cochlear implant technology) project exploited the latest technologies in order to develop a binaural CI. Project partners developed a research platform that generates data which enables researchers to maximise the benefits of binaural listening in CI users. It also provides researchers with tools to evaluate binaural functions. The portable real-time system fills an important gap in CI research by combining hardware and software within the same platform. This represents a major advancement in CI research. The ABCIT team created new stimulation strategies for CI and designed novel software and hardware tools for recording brain activity in bilateral CI. Specifically, the first multi-channel brainstem electroencephalogram for CI listeners was developed. Team members adapted state-of-the-art hearing-aid algorithms and developed new ones for CI devices. The speech enhancement capability of the algorithms was assessed. The algorithms significantly enhanced the speech understanding of users by removing background noise from acoustic signals before these signals are converted into electrical pulses in CI devices. Lastly, a feasibility study successfully demonstrated the capacity of the ABCIT solution. ABCIT's technology could one day revolutionise CIs, allowing users to hear more normally and function in social settings where communication was previously near impossible. Once commercialised, the device will represent a therapeutic, cost-effective solution for a growing proportion of the global population.
Binaural cochlear implant, hearing loss, ABCIT, binaural listening