The ‘Linz Center of Mechatronics’ (LCM) and the JKU Institute for Electric Drives and Power Electronics have developed together with the Austrian hearing implant manufacturer MED-EL the ‘Bonebridge’ hearing implant system. For this development MED-EL has been awarded the ‘State Innovation Prize 2014’ by Dr. Reinhold Mitterlehner, Federal Minister for Science, Research and Industry. Bonebridge was selected as the winner from 510 entries.
Bonebridge contains an audio processor that converts sound waves into electrical signals, which are then transmitted transcutaneously to an implant in the body. This is anchored in the petrous bone behind the human ear and converts the signals back into mechanical vibrations. From this point on nature takes command again, the vibrations being conducted from the cranial bone to the inner ear—the cochlea—and then processed by the brain as sounds just like people who hear normally.
The effects are enormous for those affected by sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss. The patients treated have thus been able to regain their previously missing speech recognition capability, making a big contribution towards increasing their quality of life. And by the way, the implant can also be inserted very easily—thanks to the bone anchorage, the middle and inner ear do not have to be opened up.
This is a worldwide unique research result that has won over the medical world in less than two years and is meanwhile being used internationally by over 200 surgeons.
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