Updated Implant Provides More Realistic Sound Quality for Deaf People
Cochlear implants are very successful neural prosthetics that help individuals who are deaf perceive sound. They work by translating auditory information into electrical signals that go directly to the brain, bypassing cells that don't serve this function as they should because they are damaged. Yet these devices have a long way to go before their performance is comparable to that of the intact human ear. With funding from the National Science Foundation, Georgia Tech biomedical engineers have found a way to improve the audio quality of cochlear implants by building in more electrodes, which provide a wider range of frequencies. The researchers developed a new, thin-film electrode array that is up to three times more sensitive than traditional wire electrodes, without adding bulk. Unlike wire electrodes, the new array is also flexible, meaning it can get closer to the inner wall of the cochlea. The researchers believe the new design will create better coupling between the array and the nervous system, leading to a crisper signal.