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Cochlear Implants: A Look Back in Time

The origins of cochlear implants commenced around the 1950s when experiments to provoke the auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear were initially thought of. It wasn’t until 1978 that Dr William F. House – an ear, nose and throat expert – developed the prototype device. This apparatus includes an external microphone and speech processor, which catches sounds from the environment and transforms them into electrical impulses. The cochlear implant then conveyed these impulses to electrodes implanted in the inner ear, activating the auditory nerve fibres so that people with hearing loss could hear sounds they wouldn’t otherwise be able to. 

Cochlear implants have improved drastically in size, sound processing capacities and accessibility for those with hearing loss. Early instruments were large and had minimal sound processing abilities. Recently, miniaturization has permitted more refined sound processing algorithms with a wide range of sound inputs, including music and speech. Today, most countries give insurance coverage for cochlear implant devices, making it more accessible for those suffering from severe to profound hearing loss – regardless of age.

Famous individuals with cochlear implants

Many famous individuals use cochlear implants, including:

  1. Marion Downs was an audiologist who obtained the first-ever cochlear implant in the United States. Downs was a frontiersperson in hearing loss and contributed to developing cochlear implants.
  2. Evelyn Glennie is a Grammy Award-winning percussionist who has been deaf since 12. Glennie advocates for cochlear implants and has used one for over 20 years.
  3. Holly Maniatty is an American sign language interpreter widely recognized for her work at music festivals and concerts. Maniatty uses a cochlear implant and has conveyed her story to raise understanding about the benefits of cochlear implants for people with hearing loss.
  4. Neil Harbisson is a cyborg artist and a frontiersperson in wearable technology. Harbisson has a cochlear implant that permits him to hear colours, and has used it to create distinctive and innovative art pieces.

A few famous people with hearing loss have been using cochlear implants, and their stories highlight the benefits that these devices can have on people’s lives. This encourages other individuals to pursue their goals, no matter what. Moreover, cochlear implants are much more accessible than before. In places like Singapore, insurance often covers them, and they’re easily attainable for people of all ages with severe to profound hearing loss. For example, The Listening Lab’s Hearing & Implant Centre offers top-of-the-line devices and services that help those with hearing loss live fuller lives. 

Dr House’s creation was the beginning of this journey, and over time it has evolved dramatically through technological innovation. Cochlear implants are a true testament to human creativity and progress in improving life for those with hearing loss.