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What Is a Cochlear Implant Simulation?

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  • Written By: Andrew Kirmayer
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Images By: Igor Mojzes, Kocakayaali, Yahoo! Accessibility Lab
  • Last Modified Date: 22 November 2016
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A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that may be used by those who are hard of hearing. It can represent sounds in the environment, but generally does not reproduce speech or music, for example, exactly as a normal ear does. To predict how certain noises sound through an implant, researchers often use a cochlear implant simulation. The frequency of speech patterns can be broken up into different channels using band-pass filters; this helps to assess the quality of sound depending on how many channels are used. Specialized software is typically a part of the process, and is usually compatible with common computer operating systems.

Cochlear implant simulation programs typically reproduce sounds as they are heard through the mechanisms of the implant. These cochlear implants usually consist of a microphone, speech processor, as well as a transmitter and receiver in which signals are converted into electric pulses. A cluster of electrodes are usually placed along the cochlea, a part of the inner ear where sounds are processed into nerve signals. These electrodes typically send impulses directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing damaged parts of the ear.

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The division of sound into different channels is generally important for cochlear implant simulation. Four to eight channels are typically enough to understand speech, while music can be difficult to interpret if it is reproduced at fewer than 32 channels. Cochlear implant programs often help researchers see how the brain processes speech and music differently. The more detail that needs to be processed, generally the more channels that are needed; speech can usually be understood by the brain if even if the sound is somewhat degraded.

Some types of cochlear implant software work by preparing an audio signal. A file can be opened or one can be recorded through a microphone. Sounds can be played by using the program’s controls, while the various parameters may be set by following the software’s prompts and dialogs. A cochlear implant simulation can then be played and saved as a separate computer file.

Surgeons often use simulations for those getting a cochlear implant. They can use the data to determine the best placement of electrodes, depending on whether one has trouble hearing in either low or high frequencies, for example. The type of hearing loss is important to consider, and how to address it can be assessed using a cochlear implant simulation before surgery. Each of the pros and cons of a cochlear implant can be better defined on an individual basis. Aside from the risks of surgery, the chances of success are generally maximized by using simulations.

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