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Sound through a cochlear implant

We have been funding research into cochlear implants to investigate ways to improve cochlear implant technology.

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The research we fund includes projects investigating how cochlear implants can be used in conjunction with hearing aids, and gathering evidence for guidelines for assessing a patient's suitability for a cochlear implant.

Early cochlear implants

The first type of implants only had one electrode so they were unable to distinguish between different sound frequencies. They were useful for providing information about the timing or rhythm of speech, but they had to be used in conjunction with lip reading.

Listen to an audio file(.wav 455KB, opens new window) of how we think an early cochlear implant would interpret the phrase 'we are the charity taking action on hearing loss'.

Modern day cochlear implants

These days, cochlear implants are more sophisticated and they can help many people with severe or profound hearing loss to communicate in a range of situations. They have a larger number of electrodes and more advanced technology behind them.

Listen to an audio file(.wav 455kb, opens new window) of how we think a modern day cochlear implant would interpret the phrase 'we are the charity taking action on hearing loss.'

Listening to music through a cochlear implant

Today’s cochlear implants are still not very good at helping people hear different pitches, e.g. male vs. female voices, or helping them to hear in noisy places. This is very noticeable when listening to this music:

Listen to an audio file(.wav 11Mb, opens new window) of how we think an early cochlear implant would interpret the song 'So in love' by opera singer Janine Roebuck.

Listen to an audio file(.wav 11Mb, opens new window) of how we think a modern day cochlear implant would interpret the song 'So in love' by opera singer Janine Roebuck.

This is just a snapshot of one type of music heard through a cochlear implant simulation. It is impossible to know exactly how cochlear implant users experience music so all simulations are estimates. People not only vary in how much benefit they receive from a cochlear implant but different cochlear implant manufacturers use different speech processors in their devices. Different types of music are also likely to be affected in variable ways by a cochlear implant. For example, music with a regular beat might be less adversely affected than music where vocals are more prominent, such as the music represented here. 

Acknowledgements

All cochlear implant simulations were created using TigerCIS Cochlear Implant Simulation and Hearing Loss Simulator(external link, opens new window) created by Qian-Jie Fu, Ph.D., Version 1.05.02 (1.6Mb).

The music in the simulations is a clip of Cole Porter’s ‘So in Love’ sung by opera singer and Action on Hearing Loss trustee Janine Roebuck. Janine kindly supplied us with the recording for the simulations.

You can download a free Windows Media Player(external link, opens new window) from the Microsoft website.

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