The multiple-channel cochlear implant is the first sensori-neural prosthesis to effectively and safely bring electronic technology into a direct physiological relation with the central nervous system and human consciousness, and to give speech perception to severely-profoundly deaf people and spoken language to children.
Research showed that the place and temporal coding of sound frequencies could be partly replicated by multiple-channel stimulation of the auditory nerve. This required safety studies on how to prevent the effects to the cochlea of trauma, electrical stimuli, biomaterials and middle ear infection. The mechanical properties of an array and mode of stimulation for the place coding of speech frequencies were determined.
A fully implantable receiver–stimulator was developed, as well as the procedures for the clinical assessment of deaf people, and the surgical placement of the device. The perception of electrically coded sounds was determined, and a speech processing strategy discovered that enabled late-deafened adults to comprehend running speech. The brain processing systems for patterns of electrical stimuli reproducing speech were elucidated. The research was developed industrially, and improvements in speech processing made through presenting additional speech frequencies by place coding. Finally, the importance of the multiple-channel cochlear implant for early deafened children was established.
- Received December 3, 2004.
- Accepted August 30, 2005.
- © 2006 The Royal Society