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New study into benefits of having two cochlear implants

Published: 
27 March 2003

Scientists at the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre, based at the University of Southampton's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, are taking part in a study to explore the benefits of having bilateral cochlear implants (implants in both ears) to help profoundly deaf people recover some hearing.

The national study, which presently involves only adults, is exploring the range and types of benefits offered by bilateral cochlear implants. Work at Southampton is focusing on improvements in the ability to localise where sounds are coming from with two implants compared to only one. Indirectly, this may contribute towards confidence building, socializing and employment opportunities.

Established in 1989, the Centre has provided implants for more than 200 deaf people. It has already provided second cochlear implants to three patients and has had very positive feedback.

"Those who have received a second implant report that they feel that they can hear in 3-D and find it much easier to localize sound," comments Professor Mark Lutman, who is leading the research at the University's Institute of Sound and Vibration Research. "The way that we hear usually involves two ears, so it is hardly surprising that two cochlear implants work better than one and have a very positive effect on the individual's well-being."

A cochlear implant is a sophisticated device in two parts. The internal part is implanted during surgery and is placed under the skin behind the ear, the second part of the device is placed on the outside of the head and worn like a hearing aid, attached to the internal part by a magnet. The external part, the speech processor, delivers sound to the inner ear, via electrical impulses, at a rate of up to 15000 pulses per second.

The initial findings of the study will be available during 2003.

Notes for editors

  1. The Institute of Sound and Vibration Research (ISVR) is an internationally renowned centre of excellence in teaching, research and consulting. In the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, it received the top 5* rating.
  2. The University is currently raising funds for a £5.7 million new building for the Institute of Sound and Vibration Research. The new building will house an updated, state-of-the-art Biomedical Imaging Research Department, which will make it the one of the leading Biomedical Imaging centres in the country.
  3. The interface between technology and humans has been at the centre of ISVR's activities, with active research and teaching programmes in audiology (including a highly respected MSc course), human vibration interactions, medical imaging, patient monitoring and physiological modelling. Clinics at ISVR (including the South of England Cochlear Implant Centre) and collaborations with hospitals are at the core of these projects. ISVR also runs undergraduate courses in various aspects of sound and vibration: an MEng/BEng degree in Acoustical Engineering, a BSc in Acoustics and Music, and from September, a BSc programme in Audiology.
  4. More details can be found on the web-site at www.isvr.soton.ac.uk.
  5. Further details on cochlear implants can also be found at the Cochlear Ltd website at www.cochlear.com.
  6. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. The University, which celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002, has 20,000 students and over 4,500 staff and plays an important role in the City of Southampton. Its annual turnover is in the region of £235 million.

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