Back in August I posted about one of the major current drawbacks to Cochlear Implants: the inability to effectively pick up music (see Cochlear Implants and Music).
Tonight I read an interesting blog about a new algorithm devised by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle that “vastly improves the sound quality of existing implants to the point where music sounds like something other than a random clamor”. You can see the full post here.
This is both an encouraging and scary statement. Scary in that music perception is still SO bad, but encouraging in that this problem can be attacked through software upgrades. Pretty crazy if you think about it. Imagine receiving an email asking you to “download the latest upgrade of your implant software to…hear guitar music!”
I have no doubt something like this will be exactly what happens in the future. With the CI implant surgery being so invasive, requiring infant anesthesia and an overnight hospital stay…TWICE (once for each ear), minimizing the need for future surgery is critical.
This emphasizes the value in getting a processor that has room for future software upgrades. While I’m sure Fiona will no doubt need a physical upgrade again later in her life, the advantages of upgrading must be very compelling to go through the surgery process again. Fortunately the processor companies also realize this and have placed the bulk of the processing hardware outside of the implant area itself, allowing for many upgrades without new surgery.
Still, it is inevitable internal upgrades will likely be needed again down the road as the nerve stimulation apparatus becomes more sophisticated. My hope is Fiona’s second round of implants will happen when we’ve finally achieved the “completely internal” implant.
Still a long way off, but I’m sure it will happen in her lifetime.