Saturday, March 18, 2017

Is this the future?

While I am on the subject of my recent adventures at Celebration!, I feel the need to put a little hope out there for those of us that have had the "privilege" of having Meniere's disease steal, not only our hearing, but also a good portion, if not all, of our natural, inner ear balance function.

One of the sessions I attended was about what was coming in the future for Cochlear brand implants.

Naturally, the main thrust of the presentation was about the hearing aspects of implant technology. To be honest, some of the glimpses are pretty darn cool. Things like direct connect to IPhone with a phone app to control your processor. Or smaller, lighter processors. Or giving a recipient the ability to have their processor mapped without traveling to their audiologist. All the way to the current holy grail of implant technology, the thing affectionately code named TICI. The Totally Implanted Cochlear Implant. Yup, completely inside your head. No one would even know you have one.

Granted, the presenter (a man in charge of many of these projects- direct from Corporate headquarters in Sydney) would not, and really could not, give any kind of timeline for any of these coming out, the fact that they were mentioned means they are on the way. Sometime.

What he could say with certainty is that the N7, N8, and N9 behind the ear processors are all under development as he was speaking, as were the Kanso 2, Kanso 3, and Kanso 4. They need to be. Technology moves so fast that the rate that new, more powerful and complex processors hit development needs to be never ending.

But you know that we ( Meniere's patients) have a bigger, or additional concern: Our balance.

To tie this all together, after the presenter was done with his session, he took some questions and, of course, all of them pertained to hearing. Since the time was up for that session, I hung around for a few minutes to get a chance to talk with him. The first thing I told him was that my question was going to take him on a totally different direction from all of the other questions he had taken. I then explained why I was deaf and asked him if there was any actual research going on in the field of Vestibular implants. He replied there absolutely was, and referred me to some early work that had taken place in the state of Washington. He also mentioned that one of the presenters of a different session, Dr. Blake Papsin, was working with Cochlear Ltd in research on a vestibular implant. He mentioned that there were some significant hurdles to clear in getting one to the commercial point and that VI's were at the stage where Cochlear implants were 30 years ago.

30 years ago, CI's were in the trial stage, or just hitting the market and the long term success was unknown. That seems like an eternity, but in the world of electronics, that is a very short trip. If VI's are able to leapfrog forward due to the knowledge from CI's, development could be rapid. Or it could hit a wall.

When I thanked him for his time, I off handedly said, "I appreciate the information, even though I probably won't see any benefit in my lifetime."

"Don't rule that out", he replied

In case you were not aware, there are trials going on for a vestibular implant to replace person's missing natural balance system. Here is a link to one of the studies

'til next time


Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness


  1. Wow. Interesting stuff. Let's hope we live long enough to see this happen!

  2. Wow interesting I missed that session