Cochlear Implant in Fully Functional Ear

So I've had a thought over the past few days, medically used cochlear implants have been around for a while, mostly used to replace non-functioning ears (or poorly functioning ears). Noting now that I've done only mild research into the technology and how it works, I thought I'd ask a couple questions. (Covering a few of the things I do know, small device with receiver just under the skin, receives analog power from external device usually worn behind the ear, signals get relayed to the working part of the ear (forget what part that is exactly), interpreted by the brain as sound.)

Would having one of these interfere with the function of the actual ear in any way were someone to somehow get one implanted in a perfectly good ear?
Would any of you opt to have such an implant if it were... you know... affordable and... not... frowned upon by the larger medical field?

I've been thinking about our attempts at bone conducting Bluetooth implants, and thought that maybe... rather than trying to invent a new technology we should just better an existing one, implant the normally ear-worn portion of the device and utilize the already existing technology to handle actual audio relating to the brain. Any thoughts on that?


  • If you get one you loose all possibility of ever hearing from that ear again. It basically destroyes the ear and that's why they only do it on completely deaf people and no one else. Plus I've read it sounds digital and like shit
  • To get a bit more detailed here. A cochlear implant usually requires to insert an electrode array into the cochlea itself. Means you put a big bulky electrode right into the most delicate part of your hearing mechanism. 
    About the resulting "fidelity". Just for comparison, the cochlear nerve has roundabout 30k nerve fibers. A cochlear implant gives you less than 30 output channels. So you get a bit less than 0.1% of the original fidelity. And the quality of each of those is a lot worse than what your natural hearing produces.

    If you want to improve stuff, you may want to improve electrode-arrays which tap right into the nerve bundles. So you could get away without touching the mechanical part of the hearing. This would also help with many other applications, not just hearing, but pretty much every sensory/motoric signal in your body.
  • edited November 2016
    I have done a moderate amount of research on cochlear implants due to hearing loss of my own, but I have to agree with other folks here. The cochlea is severely damaged by the electrode implant. If you are interested in what a cochlear implant's quality is, there are some good simulations on YouTube. Frankly its depressing.

    Now if we could develop something that could better interface with the nerves like @ThomasEgi suggested that would be great. One interesting aspect of these implants is that while the quality is poor they do have a selection of filters for various environments. 
  • @ThomasEgi Maybe you could do something like that with a Utah slated array. I see a lot of awesome research on that device since I am in The University who started it 
  • @ThomasEgi: I vaguely remember that the electrodes had been imrproving though: back before I graduated from biomed engineering during a visit to Cochlear (the company) a patient with implants gave a talk and says that she can listen to music. That was around 7 or 8 years ago so unless the industry hasn't improved...

    That said, the ultimate "holy grail" back then was to be able to connect directly to the cochlear nerve bypassing the cochlear. No idea what is the progress of that.
  • Alright, soundsnlike it wasn't as good of an ideas as I thought it might be. Didn't know But the damage to the cochlea or the poor resolution (think that term is technically accurate) when compared with natural heating.

    Thanks for the feedback, that's what I asked for.

    Back to the drawing board. And my data storage implant.
  • There is a Cochlear Implant Hybrid (made by Cochlear and Med-el has a recently approved one as well) which has a short electrode that only enters partway into the cochlea this preserving low-frequency hearing below 1khz.

    It still damages everything above 1k hz, however.
  • If you want to relay additional sound data to the brain there is a much easier way *cough*
  • Im working on something similar, but not any parts inside my skin, so it wont apply here.. 

    However i have an odd question.. 
    If i wanted an additional "phonological loop" (the ability to "listen" to two sentences at the same time for example) would the brain adapt if i used a device that canceled out one sentence per ear?
  • @Wyldstorm, you literally can only think about 1 thing at a time. So it'd be sort of like listening to a person talking about one thing while reading a book, you'd probably manage to get the general idea of both, but you'd likely miss out on details from both. Depends on your personal abilities. Test yourself reading while listening to someone else.

    I was thinking about a similar thing though, if somehow eyes could see in a higher... resolution (for lack of a better word)... currently I can't imagine what that would be like, since my field of view would be the same, I'm only used to seeing things in a higher resolution by getting closer to them or seeing them through some sort of magnifying device, like zooming in on a camera, both of which don't really increase the resolution at which I see, merely expand a portion of what I see to fill my whole field of view. So I have a hard time picturing what it would be like to have the same field of view but still be able to see smaller details. I imagine there's no good way to demonstrate what it would be like, it's sort of like explaining the difference between red and green to a color blind person. How do you describe a color without relating it to other colors?

    It is something that's be cool. But without a way to demonstrate it, I can't really describe how it'd be cool.
  • @Frank I am already working on a non-implanted device to handle audio signals, but I'd prefer an implant eventually, mostly because this particular sort of implant couldn't possibly be heard by anyone else since it doesn't actually produce audio vibrations at all. Whatever I do, it's a long ways off, currently I'm interested in possibly testing some new "3D speaker Array" used in VR headsets these days that's supposed to be able to produce sound that sounds like it comes from any direction, playing games in a 3D environment I've always sort of felt like that was already achieved with regular 2 speaker headsets (one in each ear). Noting that I never figured out how it was achieved (Omni directional sound with only one speaker per ear), but I figured it was just some clever coding. I want to try some new vr headsets to see if this new speaker Array stuff that everyone's using actually sounds different.
  • "Holographic" sound (holophonics?) is simply clever application of equalisers, you can play with it in the Windows sound settings I think. Or see one of many "invisible barber" videos. Sometimes directional recordings are made using mics placed in a dummy's ears. 

    The receivers for my Halos are buried in my ear canal, pretty sure nobody could hear what I'm listening to!
  • I've made some binaural recordings before. They're a lot of fun. 3D printed ears with mics inside and a sound card that does a good job of isolating the audio channels.
    My 3D printed ears project
    Binaural recording headphones
    The headphones did a good job and they look pretty discrete. Making something sound like it's actually around you is a matter of a time delay and some subtle changes to pitch. Software can make something sound as though it's any angle around you and the barbershop example @Frank mentioned as well as the "dummy head" microphone recordings are all over YouTube.
  • edited November 2016
    Cool. Didn't know that. Just assumed that my distinguishing 3D sounds currently was merely a result of knowing sort of where things were in said 3D space and being able to figure it out with just 2 speakers.

    Though I did always assume how having more speakers than I have (essentially) input microphones, wouldn't help. Sort of how I also assume how Apple's old 9-pin connectors for iOS devices (other things used them too, I'm aware, Apple was just the biggest user that I can think of) had 9 contacts on the plug, but the USB host End only has 4, I wondered how 9 plugs on one end and 4 on the other was any better than 4 on each end. I never took one apart to see how they were connected though.

    That's beside the point.

    Good to know about the audio bits being affected by pitch and timing just as much as physical position, I was thinking that incorporating a speaker Array into my desired earpiece was going to be hard.

    EDIT: 13-Pin connectors. Sorry. Wrong number. The current lightning ones use 8 though, so the point remains for newer products too.
  • @jupiter: I disagree.. Might be a semantical argument, but humans in general can hold about 5-7 "items" in the short term memory, and share focus more than a bit.
    You might not be able to "focus" fully on more than one thing, but you can listen passively to more than one discussion and be able to recall the relevant points. With training people can improve this..

    And if the human brain can adapt to brain injuries, i don't think its impossible to make this kind of adaption, with a little biohacking help.

    Would be worth alot and as its not mapped like the visual cortex, it'd be possible imho.
  • Besides would be kinda cool, creepy & illegal to be able to "hear" mobile phone conversations you are near to..
    Should be able to decrypt (and get all the frequency jumps/channels) and listen in on the signals.
  • I'd sooner go for just heightened hearing. Hearing everything already around me. Louder. So I can actually hear it. Of course you would want nearby things adjusted so as not to be too loud.

    If you want to snoop on things, most public wifi networks are still unencrypted. That would be fairly easy to "listen" to and convert to some sort of speech that you could hear. Of course individual encrypted traffic on the network would be still be garbled.
  • Well, just "hearing" EM signals would be amusing.
    Just the name of the wifi is useful.
  • Suppose so. I know there's an open source group working to map wifi networks to geographical locations (similar to what Google does), in an effort to reduce reliance on government controlled GPS satellites. That could easily be integrated as well. (I've forgotten what this group is called, but I'm sure I could find it if someone wants to know.)

    Especially since most public wifi networks at restaurants or hotels tend to have the name of the establishment in the name of the network, couple that with at least a pair of antennas designed to pick out the direction a network is in, you could easily "hear" networks and it'd be sort of like if someone was standing in the door at each business shouting "McDonald's over here!" (or other name of other business). Could be useful for navigating in crowded big city spaces. Granted, the chances of you hearing the network before seeing a sign are unlikely...
  • can't wait to "hear" all those "epson office printer here" shouts from office buildings. well.. actually. no i can wait.. long. no rush at all
  • After watching TEDed 'presentations'  a while back i thought of an idea. 

    using some type of interfaces transmit audio waves and teaching subconcious part of the brain to translate it

    simplest way would be to wrap some copper around finger with a magnet impant and send analog data. BUT there is a chace of beeing data range too small (i hope you guys understand what i mean) and therefore inability to diferentiate letters/words/whatever)
    hard way would be: using several interfaces and creating some type of constant protocol 

    Teaching brain should be pretty straight forward, if you guys think that this idea could word and have some questions-let me know

    NOTE: This is just theory, i havent tryed it. 

    NOTE 2: Another way of transfering data to an ear is: attacting magnet to a skull and using skull to transfer vibrations to inner ear (i have no idea how that technology works)

    INTERFACES - for example magnets that are simulated with electromagnets, or something like small electroshoks, in other words some way to receive information
  • edited November 2016
    #2 i'd think is nice, but not for long-term use.. I doubt the BBB would like it.

    Afaik some amputee's train their brain to control limbs with other muscles, so most likely it'd be possible to hook-in a new sense with electrodes under the skin (on the ear, as that part is really sensitive) that imitate the neural firing pattern enough for dendrites to read/attach.. No idea how one would fake the chemical connection tho, but one thing at a time.
    Dammit, another use for nanotubes. :/
  • @Wyldstorm what you typed about amputees, its opposite then we need.

    It looks like that i forgot to tell ya guys what i saw on that TEDed show. So there was some guy talking about brain, how it works and in the end as a proof of concept(probobly more like an invention), sadly i cant find that video :(

    The "invention":
    West type of wearable that conversts sound into patterns(probolby by using pressure or little shocks, i dont member). That west is ment for deaf people so they would be able to hear. They showed an experiment too:some deaf guy weared it (in quiet enviorment, so ya...) and another dood was saying words one at the time and he was able to understand them

    If som1 knows that video, please post it.
  • Guys, i just accidently found a video that i was talking about: 
  • @someRandomGuy
    Then i explained poorly.. 
    What i meant was pretty spot on to what the video meant.
    Basicly use unused places on the body with high concentration of receptors nerve cells.. 
    back of the ear would be where i'd start, as its sensitive, and has lots of cartilage where i'd place electrodes. 
    Gloves with different kinds of sensors? One for each kinda input you'd want to sense.. 
    How long does it take for the brain to adapt/translate the new senses? Anyone know? 
    And how important is the relative placing / placing on the skin? 
    He had a vest, but the back receptors are very few and far between.. If i used a glove, would the slight shifting of the glove be confusing and/or ruin the resolution?
  • And... Is there some kinda mesh one could implant on the inside of the arm to act as a kinda keyboard for controlling the mods? (ie. what materials wouldnt be rejected?
    And could i use some kinda low voltage pulses to communicate mod-mod through the body?
  • Wyldstorm 
    How long does it take for the brain to adapt/translate the new senses?
    if setted up propelly +  24/7, it shoudint take long, i guess like 2 weeks.(thats just a guess)
    And how important is the relative placing / placing on the skin?  
    As far as i know the only variable that matters is sensitivity so you would want to place it in fairly sensitive place (Has any1 implanted anything into clitoris or dickhead?? It should be crazy sensitive BUT EVEN SO im definitely arent going for that kind of operation). As he said, brain dosent know/care what/where is, all it does is binds nerve signals to our consciousness(yes, i know, thats a shitty explanation)

    And... Is there some kinda mesh one could implant on the inside of the arm to act as a kinda keyboard for controlling the mods? 
    well, there are quite a few options:
    1. Conductive tattoo(you would need to reapply it )
    2. Magnetic switches under a skin (they have some type of term, i forgot it)
    3. Possibly grid of wires under a skin and hope that on good push skin conductivity will change
    4. Something like a watch that has nice and big screen-like a phone, aside of a fact that it would work as a control for your stuff, you would add some sensors in it like accelerometer or barometer 

    And could i use some kinda low voltage pulses to communicate mod-mod through the body?
    Thats a tricky question, i guess you would just have to test it. thin wires under your skin SHOULD work but it would be a pain to implat it(mental, not physical)
  • @SomeRandomGuyI love that video, I have see it before. They have some very interesting things in there and I would love to see more of his data on things. I hit him up a while back and got no reply. But maybe someone else would have better luck
Sign In or Register to comment.