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Technology Abstract

Implantable Fiber-Optic Hearing Aid Microphone

Implantable Hearing Aid Microphone for use with Cochlear Implant

Whilst conventional hearing aids greatly improve the lives of people with hearing difficulties, they cause problems by being worn externally – for example they can cause stigma and affect daily activities such as bathing. This technology is an implantable hearing aid microphone, which, when combined with a cochlear implant, would be a completely internal hearing aid.

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Cochlear implantations have been a great breakthrough for the hearing-impaired, especially where conventional hearing aids fail. However, cochlear implants are also subject to similar drawbacks as conventional hearing aids because the microphone receiver must be worn externally. Implanting a microphone is complicated because of the anatomy of the inner ear, whereby the receiving function can be perturbed by the bones and surrounding skin. To achieve an internal microphone, this technology utilizes a novel fiber-optic approach. A very small fiber-optic system is installed in the ear to sense changes in pressure caused by sound at the middle ear. This acoustic signal is converted into an optic signal, which can then be converted to an electrical signal that can be received by a cochlear implant. Besides having the benefit of being completely internal, the device further has the advantage that it does not interfere at all with the natural hearing chain – that is, the ear canal is not blocked, and the hearing apparatus of the middle ear (tympanic membrane and bones) are undisturbed. The hearing aid is a one-size-fits-all solution, enabling patients to hear sounds at all audible frequencies and can even be fitted into young children.

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