Cochlear implants: simulator predicts success

© UPF - The project team, comprising members from different participating organisations, at a recent meeting in Barcelona.

A research team at Barcelona's Pompeu Fabra University has developed experimental software that allows for planning and prediction of the success of cochlear implant surgery through the use of state-of-the-art imaging and simulation technology.

This research, which forms part of the European HEAR-EU project, was carried out jointly by experts and European manufacturing firms, who worked together for three years to bring this original idea to life on a budget of close to 3.5m euros. The next step involves the development of a business plan to bring this planning software onto the market in a period of less than two years, thus offering benefits to patients, as well as to surgeons and manufacturers.

The project was co-ordinated by computer science graduate, Miguel Ángel González Ballester. It also involved the University of Bern, the Technical University of Denmark, and European firms such as the Austrian producer, MED-EL, the Catalonian software operator in medical programmes, Alma Medical, and the Swiss company, SCANCO, which develops microTAC imaging technology. During the last three years at PFU, a team of six experts in telecommunications, computer science, and engineering has worked to turn this original idea into a tangible tool to improve both planning in patient surgery as well as the design of implants themselves, to achieve "maximum personalisation", as orthopaedic designs have seen for some ten years now with projects created through the technology of "evidence-based design", a project also developed at this university (1). The research was focused on developing software tools for planning surgical operations using medical imaging analysis and computer simulation. For González Ballester, "surgical planning and personalisation in treatment are two clear tendencies that medical investigation is moving towards."

Simulations using high-definition images of cochleas

To begin with, working jointly with SCANCO enabled the team to develop a statistical model in order to carry out simulations on patients but keeping in mind the morphological variability of the cochlea by using high-quality imaging, thus increasing the degree of precision. The software, therefore, can link low-resolution medical tests on the patient with high-resolution images in donor patients based on similarities in the shape of the two cochleas involved. Once the type of cochlea is identified, the software allows for 3-D simulation of surgery using different implant models and personalising the surgical parameters for each patient, determining depth and routes before actually putting it into practice. After so many run-throughs, when the moment of truth arrives the software is also compatible with a robotics project now at the marketing stage and launched by the University of Bern that "increases precision in surgery, and is minimally invasive," points out González Ballester, since "the robot goes directly to the cochlea."

On the market in two years

As its co-ordinator sees it, this is "a successful project that needs to mature." So far, the experimental validation protocol worked on the 35 patients it was applied to, with no exceptions. In this respect, González Ballester is satisfied because the trial "demonstrated that the initial idea can be materialised, and because it has created interest in the companies involved." He is convinced of its business viability: "There are good chances this planning software will reach the marketplace," since the team is working with MED-EL and Alma Medical so that it does not get overlooked once the research is finished, and in order to develop the business plan set up to sell it to hospitals and to producers in a maximum of two years.

González Ballester is also optimistic about the project's application in the medical sphere since he claims the software cost will be low and that the idea would help save on additional costs resulting from poor surgery.

Technology applicable to hearing aids

With the aim of improving the precision and planning involved in prosthetic fittings, Rasmus Paulsen, researcher at the University of Denmark and member of the HEAR-EU project, is currently working on the optimisation of hearing aids through the latest technology, and in a quite similar way to this European project. They are studying different ear shapes in order to better adjust hearing aid design and increase both comfort and device effectiveness. In relation to this, González Ballester is confident that there is scope for research into high-precision imaging to be applied to prosthetic fitting.

The project has achieved even more thanks to researchers such as Russell Andrews, and thanks to interest from the NASA Ames research centre in this model including variability based on damage present in the nerve (2). This sub-project already under way, and which has been published in the journal Molecular Neurbiology, aims for the software to include different degrees of neural degeneration in order to simulate situations and predict the success of surgery.

What the model does already include is the possibility of planning partial insertion in cases of loss of high frequency localised at the start of the cochlea. In this way, the software allows for calculation of the exact depth of insertion without affecting the healthy part of the cochlea.

(1) The previous work on orthopedic implants as well as the cochlear implants project are based on creation of statistical models depicting the shape of anatomical structures and their variability among population. The method is then based on "learning" the shapes from examples issued from cochlea (or bones, on the previous study) images.

(2) The team is collaborating with the NASA in a research project concerning the simulation of nerves stimulation on cochlear implants. The project belongs to a larger partnership on several biomedical studies.

Read the article in Spanish on Audioenportada, the website for hearing care professionals in Spain and Latin America

Mónica Martínez Galante, Audio Infos Spain

Dogs are mentally uplifting and cost effective in the lives of deaf people, pioneering study affirms
Dogs are mentally uplifting and cost effective in the lives of deaf people, pioneering study affirms

 

support

© cgshoots - iStock

Having an assistance dog significantly improves the wellbeing, mental health, and independence of deaf people, reducing social isolation and fearfulness. Who would've thought it?

InnerScope guzzles Walmart's biggest hearing aid supplier and guns for record revenues
InnerScope guzzles Walmart's biggest hearing aid supplier and guns for record revenues

 

acquisitions

© Innerscope

The steam is sizzling from the latest move in the ebullient US direct-to-consumer hearing tech market by California-based device producer and distributor InnerScope Hearing Technologies, which has announced its purchase of Hearing Assist.

London research envisages a future cochlear implant that self-curls into individual cochlea shapes
London research envisages a future cochlear implant that self-curls into individual cochlea shapes

 

implants

© Imperial College

The intriguing concept of a cochlear implant (CI) that self-shapes on insertion has moved an early step closer to materialisation, having successfully met simulation and analysis studies by its Imperial College proposers.

Predictions for 2031: Christophe Micheyl: Earbuds morning to night, all of us, all ages
Predictions for 2031: Christophe Micheyl: Earbuds morning to night, all of us, all ages

 

Future of Audiology: 2031

© jacomstephens - avid_creative- iStock

One of our French sources from the 15 worldwide audiology experts we asked for visions of audiology in the year 2031, Christophe Micheyl, predicts a society in which everyone wears earbuds morning to night.

More prestigious recognition for Sonova's classy hearing awareness and product films
More prestigious recognition for Sonova's classy hearing awareness and product films

 
 

marketing

© Sonova/Slivio Gerber

Once again, the Cannes Corporate Media & TV Awards has recognised the marketing finesse of hearing giant Sonova, two of its Life without Limitations film products capturing the jury's favour in the November festival.

Predictions for 2031: Prof. Helen Cullington: The instant and total hearing fix
Predictions for 2031: Prof. Helen Cullington: The instant and total hearing fix

 

Future of Audiology: 2031

© jacomstephens - avid_creative- iStock

Imagine a world in which we no longer stress any distinction between normal-hearing persons and those with hearing loss; could this happen by 2031?

Latest figures show continued hearing aid sales recovery, and strong NHS revival
Latest figures show continued hearing aid sales recovery, and strong NHS revival

 
 

sales

© BIHIMA all pictures

Heartening Q3 hearing instrument sales figures from the British Irish Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (BIHIMA) show continued recovery from the 2020 pandemic hit not only in UK and Ireland private business, but now in NHS numbers.

Company Directory

New products

Fitting flexibility spotlit in Widex launch of first rechargeable BTE: MOMENT BTE R D Fitting flexibility spotlit in Widex launch of first rechargeable BTE: MOMENT BTE R D

 
 

hearing aids

© Widex

Widex has announced its first-ever rechargeable behind-the-ear hearing aid, one its makers say professionals can fit with great flexibility through the new Compass GPS 4.3 software. 

 [ ... ]

MOMENT App update offers Widex users streaming scopeMOMENT App update offers Widex users streaming scope

 

streaming

© Widex

Widex has announced a mobile softward upgrade that will allow users of the MOMENT range to stream music, calls, and other content.

 [ ... ]

Starkey unveils highly crafted Evolv AI and its 55 million adjustments per hourStarkey unveils highly crafted Evolv AI and its 55 million adjustments per hour

 

new product

© Starkey  The US manufacturer launched its latest range online in August, Archelle Georgiou and Achin Bhowmik, respectivelyt its chief officers for medicine and technology, introducing many of the new features of Evolv AI.

“Effortless”is the key idea behind the latest hearing aid portfolio released by US manufacturer, Starkey: “effortless hearing, effortless connection and effortless selection”.

 [ ... ]