Future of Hearing
- Project Number: LSC14_027
- Project Lead: Georg Mathias Sprinzl, Karl Landsteiner University of Health Sciences / Division of Otorhinolaryngology (University Hospital St. Pölten)
- Project Partner: Hannover Medical School / Biomaterial Engineering, CEST
- Duration: 37 months starting from 01.02.2016
Severe deafness (1.7% of the total population) leads to social isolation, disability and early dementia. Hearing aids and cochlear implants (CI) bring help here, but eliminate the socio-economic effects only partially. The reason lies in the failure of the so-called "Cocktail Party Ability", where with a healthy hearing one can focus on a single conversation in a noisy room.
This data processing is not found in the cortex, but the latter actively controls a filtering in the auditory organ (cochlea) via a down-going multilevel, efferent control. Despite all signal processing in hearing aids and CI, this unconscious regulation is difficult to imitate and their regulation by patients remains almost unused because of inconvenience. What is missing is the technical closing of the extended loop consisting of cochlea, cortex and hearing aid / CI.
With Brain Computer Interfaces (BCI), the connection of the cortex or underlying stations of auditory efference to hearing aids could be possible in the future, albeit to a large extent cooperation of audiologists, neurosurgeons, electrophysiologists, electrode developers, modeling neuro- and cognitive scientists is needed. The University Hospital St. Pölten (UKStP) of the Karl Landsteiner Private University for Health Sciences recommends itself as the initiator of a roadmap, which incorporates the state of knowledge into teaching, evaluates the application focus and communicates a consensus on challenges and milestones.
In addition to this long-term approach, in the first, smaller experiments it will be tested if efferent control can work. These experiments as part of ongoing animal experiments and CI patients allow easier access to the efferent auditory system to test (compound action potential CAP, tonotopic action potentials in sensing CI mode and EEG leads). A success would be a tentative conclusion of efferent regulation allowing patients to learn to use the efference - possibly as intuitive as BCI-controlled limbs *. (* Collinger JL et al, J. Clin. Trans. Science (2014) 7, 1, 1752-8062)