Cochlear Implants and Auditory Brainstem Implants help to amplify or provide a sense of sound to the profoundly deaf and hard of hearing.  

The cochlear implant is a complex electronic device that bypasses damaged portions of the ears to directly stimulate the auditory nerves. A cochlear implant consists of a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter and receiver, and an electrical array. The microphone picks up sound from the environment, which the speech processor arranges for the transmitter and receiver. The transmitter and receiver convert that sound to electrical impulses and transmits them to the electrical array where they can be sent to different regions of the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants can help deaf or severely hard of hearing children to experience sounds during optimal periods of speech and language development. It can also be beneficial for adults who have lost their hearing later in life, as they can associate signals from the implant with the sounds they remember.  

An auditory brainstem implant can be a solution for individuals who do not benefit from hearing aids and cochlear implants due to small or missing hearing nerves or an abnormal inner ear. Like the cochlear implant, this device consists of a processor that picks up sound from the environment and turns it into an electrical signal for an electrical array. This array sits within the brainstem, however, bypassing both the inner ear and the hearing nerve. Auditory brainstem implants are primarily used for individuals with Neurofibromatosis type 2 but is also considered for patients with other hearing nerve and inner ear abnormalities. The implant helps these individuals distinguish sounds, and, when combined with other assistive techniques such as lip reading, can improve communication with others.

Past Research

  • First cochlear implant for clinical trials, designed by William House, MD, and Jack Urban in the 1970s  
  • Developed a single-electrode cochlear implant prototype that went on to become the first commercially available cochlear implant  
  • Teamed up with the 3M company to receive FDA approval for the cochlear implant in 1984 
  • First pediatric cochlear implant  
  • Developed research interfaces that allowed for direct control of cochlear implant simulation
    • This allowed for further research into perceptions of loudness, modulation, etc within cochlear implant patients  
  • Developed the auditory brainstem implant  
  • Teamed up with USC, UCLA, and MED-EL to receive FDA approval for cochlear implants for patients with single sided deafness

Current Research

  • Optimizing cochlear implant processing to improve acoustic-electric hearing in patients with single-sided deafness  
  • Comparing music perception between acoustic and electric hearing in patients with single sided deafness to better understand music perception and to improve quality of sound  
  • Researching how the brain adapts to electric stimulation in patients with single-sided deafness using measures such as electroencephalography  
  • Researching the use of auditory brainstem implants in patients with Neurofibromatosis type 2 and other conditions where patients may not be a candidate for the cochlear implant

Our Team

  • Kevin A. Peng, MD – neurotologist
  • Jordan Rock, AuD – ABI Audiologist
  • Daniel Roberts, MD, PhD – adjunct research associate
  • Sigfrid D. Soli, PhD – adjunct research associate