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University gets multi million-pound grant to tackle hearing loss

Friday 29th March 2019
A new device could provide high resolution sound to patients with hearing loss who are not eligible for a cochlear implant.
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The University of Utah will head up a team of researchers handed a $9.7m (£7.4m) grant to design and develop a new device for deaf people.

It will be accompanied by a surgical procedure to implant the device in a patient’s head, so it can cut through noise and deliver more detailed sound than traditional hearing aids.

The work will build on the Utah Electrode Array architecture, which was originally designed by biomedical engineering Professor Emeritus Richard Normann of the university.

This device is a brain computer that sends and receives electrical impulses to and from the organ.

Research has discovered that the Utah Electrode Array can be developed in different ways to benefit issues as varied as amputated limbs to hearing loss.

Designing a version that offers high resolution sounds could be a better alternative to a cochlear implant. If successful, the device will be used in peripheral nerves.

It could be appropriate for patients that are currently not eligible for a cochlear implant, due to specifics with their anatomy.

University of Utah electrical and computer engineering professor Florian Solzbacher, said: "You have much higher resolution of sound, which means you can cover more individual frequencies and have better tonal range. That should allow you to get more realistic hearing."

The funding is designed to last for five years, by which time it is hoped that the new device and procedure will be fully developed.

Once implanted into a patient’s body, it must last for around 30 years in order for it to be seen as a viable clinical product.

The final stages of the research will involve testing the device on three patients with hearing loss who would not usually qualify for a cochlear implant.

Written by James Puckle

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