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Dr Helen Cullington 

Principal Clinical Scientist, Research Coordinator,Associate Professor

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Dr Helen Cullington is passionate about her work: innovative scientific research combined with changing people’s lives.

A cochlear implant is an implanted electronic device that gives a sensation of hearing to adults and children with severe to profound deafness. Helen Cullington is a clinician and researcher working at the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service. She has more than 20 years’ experience in cochlear implants, having worked on several cochlear implant programmes within the United Kingdom and the United States, including House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. Helen has extensive clinical experience with all commercially-available implant devices within the United Kingdom, including involvement in the UK’s first ever binaural cochlear implant (see media tab). Helen is an elected member of the Council of the British Cochlear Implant Group and is a member of the Faculty Equality and Diversity Committee.

Helen’s first degree was in Physics followed by an MSc in Audiology at the University of Southampton in 1993. Helen was captivated by cochlear implants – the use of technology to improve people’s lives. She began working in cochlear implants immediately, as an Audiological Scientist on the implant programme in Middlesbrough initially and then from 1997 at the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service. She then worked in House Ear Institute in California, USA from 2001 to 2004, leaving House to begin a PhD at University of California, Irvine under the supervision of Fan-Gang Zeng. Helen returned to the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service in 2007; she works with all cochlear implant devices and splits her time between seeing patients and working on research projects.

Helen presented "Cochlear implant care: putting patients in charge" at the British Cochlear Implant Group Annual Conference, March 2017.


Research interests

Helen is interested in research to improve outcomes for people with cochlear implants. Her research covers:

  • Bilateral cochlear implants. Having two cochlear implants instead of one can help with hearing in background noise and working out where a sound comes from (localisation).
  • Telemedicine. Some predictions suggest that there will be seven times as many patients using cochlear implants in seven years’ time. How can we continue to follow up so many patients? The answer may lie in remote fitting and assessment, with the results being automatically transferred to the cochlear implant centre.
  • Device failures. Although cochlear implants are exceptionally reliable, failures do occur. Helen is interested in minimising the trauma for the patient when they experience a failing device, by improving test methods and monitoring.

Research project(s)

Telemedicine in cochlear implants

This project is exploring different ways of providing long term follow up to cochlear implant users.

2 ears are better than 1

What benefit do hearing impaired people get from using two auditory prostheses, one in each ear?

Cochlear implant device failures

Helen followed up cochlear implant users who experienced a certain type of device failure.

National audit of bilateral cochlear implants - Dormant

This project is a national audit of children receiving bilateral cochlear implants in the UK.

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Book Chapter



  • guest lecturer for BSc Audiology PBL 4th year Module Management of Severe and Profound Hearing Loss/ Audiology in Practice, January 2012 and 2013
  • Supervision of BSc, MSc and PhD students’ research projects

In August 2010 the University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service implanted the first Neurelec binaural cochlear implant in the UK. Although there is only one implant placed behind the ear, there are two electrodes. One electrode goes into the cochlea as usual; the other long electrode is passed over the head (under the skin) and implanted in the other ear. The two electrode arrays are driven by a single speech processor.

There was widespread national and local media coverage; The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Express, BBC online, the Daily Echo, Wave 105FM, HeartFM and Isle of Wight Radio plus numerous science and medical websites all reported on the operation. Helen was interviewed and featured in The Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and on the radio for Wave105FM.

Key facts

Watch the video above of a Neurelec user’s own video of hearing for the first time.


Helen is supervising a PhD student working on a project to see how well Neurelec users can hear in background noise, and work out where sounds are coming from.


Auditory Implant Service PhD student projects

Dr Helen Cullington
Engineering, University of Southampton, Highfield, Southampton. SO17 1BJ United Kingdom

Room Number: 19/3015

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