MONDAY, June 18 (HealthDay News) -- Auditory nerve implants may prove superior to cochlear implants in helping people who are severely or totally deaf, say U.S. researchers. Their tests on animals found that such implants can successfully transmit a wide range of sounds to the brain.
With auditory nerve implants, an ultra-thin electrode array is implanted directly in the auditory nerve.
Although cochlear implants do benefit deaf people, they have significant limitations in certain circumstances, such as hearing low-pitched sounds common in speech, identifying high and low voices, being able to follow conversations in noisy rooms, and appreciating music, according to background information in the study.
"In nearly every measure, (auditory nerve implants) work better than cochlear implants," study leader John C. Middlebrooks, professor of otolaryngology and biomedical engineering at the University of Michigan Medical School, said in a prepared statement.
The research was conducted at the University of Michigan Kresge Hearing Research Institute and the findings are published in the June issue of the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology.
If the initial success in animal tests is confirmed in future animal and human studies, a human auditory nerve implant may be available within five to 10 years, Middlebrooks said.
The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about cochlear implants.
SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System, news release, June 2007