Deaf people could get 'almost perfect' quality hearing from a cochlear implant which deconstructs sounds as it hears them. Researchers are developing a device which they say could significantly improve the quality of what people hear through the hearing aids.
In the UK around 1,200 people have cochlear implants – which essentially connect a microphone directly to the brain to recreate hearing – fitted each year. But the current technology 'sounds metallic' and needs a 'significant' amount of brain training to use, according to scientists who claim their device will be better. Around 11million people in the UK – one in six – are deaf or have a hearing loss and about 1,200 are fitted with cochlear implants each year.
Around 11million people in the UK – one in six – are deaf or have a hearing loss and about 1,200 are fitted with cochlear implants each year (stock image of a boy with a cochlear implant) Researchers at the University of Greenwich say they're developing a device which, instead of directly magnifying outside noises, rebuilds it to pick out key parts.
It records multiple layers of sound in order to create something which sounds 90 to 100 per cent like what a normal ear would hear, they said. This would protect against bits being missed if the technology is overpowered – for example by background noises drowning out speech. 'The signals created by current hearing implants sound very metallic to the user because they only a provide part of the full audio wave to the brain,' said Dr Wim Melis.
'This prevents a full reconstruction of the original signal. 'We developed a method that breaks down the input signal in its analogue components while introducing multiple versions in storage. 'This means we can reconstruct the signal with very high accuracy, even if part of the system drops out.' Dr Wim Melis (pictured) said: 'Our system could be available commercially within about six years' Dr Wim Melis said: 'Our system could be available commercially within about six years' Current systems cannot distinguish between background noise and the speech people actually want to hear, Dr Melis said, because they amplify everything. But using technology to separate the different sounds, pick out the most important parts and put them together into something which sounds fine-tuned could overcome this.