Binaural Cochlear Implant
Publication Date: 2003-Mar-20
The IP.com Prior Art Database
An Implantable Cochlear Stimulation (ICS) system includes a single electrode array partitioned into two subsets of electrodes to provide binaural hearing. The ICS system receives sound from at least two microphones. One of microphones provides a first signal dominated by sound arriving from the user’s left, and another microphone provides a second signal dominated by sound arriving from the user’s right. The first and second signals are processed independently and provided to the two subsets of the electrodes of the single electrode array implanted in one of the user’s cochlea. The human higher level neural processes are able to distinguish between signals with different characteristics, thus enabling the user to distinguish between the signals originating in the right microphone versus the left microphone, thereby providing binaural hearing.
Background & Summary
The present invention relates to improvements in Implantable Cochlear Stimulation (ICS) systems, and more particularly to providing a capability for directional hearing while stimulating only the right or the left cochlea, to improve the hearing of the hearing impaired.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,400,590 issued August 23, 1983 for "Apparatus for Multi-Channel Cochlear Implant Hearing Aid System" describes and illustrates a multi-channel intra-cochlear electrode and system for electrically stimulating predetermined locations of the auditory nerve within the cochlea of the ear. The electrode array comprises a plurality of exposed electrode pairs spaced along and embedded in a resilient curved base for implantation in accordance with the method of surgical implantation described in U.S. Pat. No. 3,751,615 issued Aug. 7, 1973 for "Method of Inducing Hearing." The hearing aid system described in the '590 patent receives audio signals at a signal processor located outside the body of a hearing impaired patient. The processor converts the audio signals into analog data signals, which are transmitted by a cable connection through the patient's skin to the implantable multi-channel intra cochlear electrode. The analog signals are applied to selected ones of the plurality of exposed electrode pairs included in the intra-cochlear electrode to electrically stimulate predetermined locations of the auditory nerve within the cochlea of the ear where the intra-cochlear electrode is positioned.
The cochlea stimulating system described in the '590 patent is limited in the number of channels of information, the speed of transfer of stimulating signals to the cochlea and the fidelity of the signals. Also, the cable connection through the skin of the patient to the intra-cochlear electrode is undesired in that it interferes with the freedom of movement of the patient and represents a possible source of infection.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,532,930 issued Aug. 6, 1985 for "Cochlear Implant System For an Auditory Prosthesis" describes and illustrates a multiple electrode system. While multiple electrodes are available to stimulate hearing, the system only operates with a single pulsalite output stimulating a single electrode channel at any given time. Such a sequential system is limited in speed of operation, and does not provide for analog operation where continuous stimulating signals, controllable in amplitude, are simultaneously applied to a number of electrode channels. Further, the system is subject to charge imbalance with misprogramming or circuit fault and inefficient use of electrical power. Moreover, once the stimulator unit is implanted there are no means for monitoring its ongoing circuit operation or power requirements so as to optimize its continued operation.
U.S. Pat. No. 4,592,359, issued June 3, 1986 for...