History of the Cochlear Implant

Read Adam Kissiah’s full paper on The History of the Cochlear Implant here.

The idea for artificial or electronic correction of hearing loss was first publicized in 1957 (1,10) when the French team of Djourno and Eyries implanted a patient with a single electrode inserted into the middle ear cavity near the auditory (8th cranial) nerve, and were able to transmit perceivable “noise” to the patient. Beginning in the nineteen sixties, the most noted and recognized pioneer in basic hearing stimulation research in the USA was Dr. Wm. F. House (3) of the (at that time) House Ear Institute (HEI), located in Sylmar (Los Angeles), CA. (from “Cochlear Implants, My Perspective, Wm F. House, M.D.”).

The second exceptionally recognized person or group is the well known and highly praised Dr. Graeme Clarke of Sydney, and the University of Melbourne, Australia, forerunners of Cochlear Corporation, Ltd., and Cochlear Americas, Ltd. (1, 27) They are the second (of three) major manufacturers.  Dr. Clark and colleagues were highly supported by the Australian government, and their program was on par and eventually exceeded the level of development and production of Dr. House and the USA research programs.

The third major manufacturer of cochlear implants is Med-El Corporation (1, 28) in the USA, and Med-El, Ltd whose Headquarters are located in Innsbruck,Austria. Ingeborg and Irwin Hochmiar are Executive Directors. Primary U.S. Offices are in Raleigh-Durham,NC.

Many other private, governmental, and university research institutions were intensely involved in cochlear implant research. See references in the “Cochlear Implant History section of Wikipedia (1).

Early implants did not (yet) employ (1, 10) to the fullest extent the principles of synthesis of the audio spectrum, and the necessity for simultaneous (parallel) application of the place-specific-electrical audio stimuli directly to specific locations within the inner ear (cochlea) and the acoustic nerve, as specified in patent 4,063,048 Reissue 32031, 09/82. As a result, the patients of this time sensed primarily background noises, and did not enjoy the full potential of the intelligence and communication factor of the spoken word, except as an aid to lip-reading. This new life-sense did, however, achieve the highly desirable result of enabling deaf persons to emerge from the isolation of silence and enter the world of sound, which significantly improved their sense of “attachment” to society.

Subsequent to issuance of Patent 4063048 (Dec 1977)  Dr. Blair Simmons and Dr. Robert White of Stanford University Stimulus Program (30), produced significant results in their early 1980s Cochlear implant development in their Bioear program in association with Biostim, Inc., and Adam Kissiah. This program is significant because it produced one of the first model implants employing specifications from Patent 4,063,048, which, as time progressed, has proved to be one of the initial basic designs of the successful implants in use today (1, 10, 14). NASA and Adam Kissiah are therefore due exceptional recognition because of the fact that NASA provided funds for patenting, advertising and transfer of this critical and vital and technology to the public through its emphasis and promotion of its system of technology commercialization.

See http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/postsecondary/features/F_NASA_Spinoff.html. Also see under www.nasa.gov/, “Hearing is Believing.” More than 50 subsequent patent applications have referred to 4,063,048 as prior art in that field. This patent is therefore considered to be the INITIAL PATENTABLE DESIGN (INVENTION) OF THE COCHLEAR IMPLANT.  This is one more example of a very positive discovery emanating from space research which can be added to the many thousands of electro-technology transfers by NASA.

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