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Cochlear Implant Users Closer to Hearing Music, Thanks to UW EE Technology

November 3, 2015

groupupdatedIn what may be considered a prelude to cochlear implants that can relay the tone and pitch of music, UW EE patented technology has been licensed to medical instrument and pharmaceutical company Lishengte. The research team that developed the new technology is comprised of EE Professor Les Atlas, EE Affiliate Professor Kaibao Nie, EE graduate student Tyler Ganter and Bloedel Hearing Research Center Director,Professor Jay Rubinstein.

Based in China, Lishengte is owned by parent company Hainan Haiyao, Ltd., and plans to open a research and development lab in Seattle, to work more closely with UW EE researchers. The first company to receive approval from China’s Food and Drug Administration, Listent plans to develop a new cochlear implant device, according to a press release.

Cochlear implants allow people who are profoundly deaf or hard-of-hearing to approach normal hearing by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. While much progress has been made in recent years, enabling cochlear implants to transmit pitch and tone have been remaining challenges. Currently, when cochlear implant users hear music, every note essentially sounds the same.

Funded by a Coulter Translational Research grant, the new technology consists of software that uses algorithms to more accurately transmit the high frequency of music. As a result, the new technology allows cochlear implant users to better hear changes in pitch and tone, which also positively impacts the ability to hear highly tonal languages such as Chinese.

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