Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Better bionic ears

An EU team has helped to improve the effectiveness of cochlear implants. The project yielded a method for creating individualised anatomical maps, which help surgeons plan implantation, plus improved implantation tools.
Better bionic ears
Cochlear implants, first pioneered in the late 1970s, are surgically inserted hearing aid devices that directly stimulate the auditory nerve. While generally successful, high variability in patient response remains a concern.

The EU-funded HEAR-EU (High-resolution image-based computational inner ear modelling for surgical planning of cochlear implantation) project reduced the variability. Since the problems relate to surgical preparation, corrections involved development of anatomical and functional models that supply information previously unavailable to the surgeon. The team's individualised high-definition models helped to minimise surgical invasiveness and trauma, and to improve functional outcomes.

First, the team obtained and analysed the necessary high-quality images. The images were used to construct the anatomical and functional models of the inner ear. Researchers then devised a method for estimating the shape of a patient's inner ear from standard low-resolution images.

The project developed software for pre- and intra-operative planning. The tools predict surgical risks in individual cases and likely functional outcomes of the surgery.

To verify the implant's final position after surgery, the team developed a new microCT imaging system. The system allows capture of high-resolution images even in the presence of metallic devices such as cochlear implants.

A final stage of technical development involved improvements to current cochlear implant electrode arrays and insertion tools. The project's statistical shape models defined an optimisation scheme that maximises efficiency of the electrode arrays for each patient.

Work of the HEAR-EU project means significant improvements to cochlear implant performance and to long-term patient quality of life. The predictive surgical models lessen hospitalisation time, while the functional improvements reduce battery consumption and costs.

Related information


Cochlear implants, anatomical maps, implantation, HEAR-EU, surgical planning
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