Back in July I posted about The Future of Hearing Correction, in which I mentioned a logical next step would be a totally implantable Cochlear Implant. Well it looks like recent research from MIT has made another step forward towards this dream.
In this recently published article, researchers at MIT’s Microsystems Technology Lab created a CI processor that can theoretically operate entirely internal to the ear.
Existing CI processors, while smaller now then ever, are still bulky and worn externally in quite a noticeable manner.
While it could be argued this is pure vanity and it shouldn’t matter if the processor is visible, I tend to be a realist and think the presence of CI hardware could lead to discrimination and exclusion in some social circumstances. Especially for children.
The internal processor is an interesting and natural evolution of the technology. Its amazing to me to think that through technological innovation, a child born deaf could interact with hearing peers in a manner that those peers would never know that child was deaf. We’re not there yet, but I can see this happening within Fiona’s lifetime.
This research is currently just that, research. As far as I’m aware, this new processor has not yet been implanted into a live subject, and it looks like there are still some challenges to work out on the power side of things:
“The idea with this design is that you could use a phone, with an adaptor, to charge the cochlear implant, so you don’t have to be plugged in,” says Anantha Chandrakasan, the Joseph F. and Nancy P. Keithley Professor of Electrical Engineering and corresponding author on the new paper. “Or you could imagine a smart pillow, so you charge overnight, and the next day, it just functions.”
A “smart pillow” gives me the willies – something about running electrical induction so close to the brain, but I have to assume smarter people then myself have this all figured out.
Still, exciting to see progress move forward so quickly.