Cochlear Americas

Contributed by , president of Healthy Hearing

Cochlear Americas

Cochlear Americas was the first company to develop and bring to market a high-functioning cochlear implant more than 25 years ago

This content was last reviewed on: July 7th, 2014

Cochlear Limited is a company that focuses on providing cochlear implants to people of all ages with severe to profound hearing loss. The company is built on a history of taking chances and conducting bold research, and they strive to improve the quality of life and communication of those living with hearing loss.

History of Cochlear Americas

Cochlear Americas got its start with Dr. Graeme Clark, a fearless Australian otolaryngologist who wouldn't take "no" for an answer.

Clark was born in 1935 and grew up in Camden, New South Wales. He watched his father, the local pharmacist, gradually lose his hearing and struggle with deafness for the rest of his life. Clark saw how his father longed to connect with others and how frustrated and isolated he felt with severe hearing loss. As a child, Dr. Clark supposedly told an elementary school teacher that he wanted to "fix ears" when he grew up.

He obtained a degree in medicine from Sydney University and completed a fellowship in surgery at the Royal College of Surgeons in London in 1964. While working as a surgeon in Melbourne in the mid-1960s, he read a paper from the U.S. about using electrical stimulation to induce hearing sensations and he was hooked. In 1969, he completed his PhD at the University of Sydney, where he studied possible mechanisms to stimulate hearing in the deaf through implantable devices.

Cochlear Americas Dr. Clark became a professor at the University of Melbourne, where he worked on his implant for more than a decade, even though others had many critiques: some said the inner ear was too complicated, others that there were too many risks and that funding would be challenging.

But while at the beach, Dr. Clark found inspiration with a coiled turban shell and a blade of grass, which was flexible enough to be snaked inside. In 1977, he worked with engineers Ian Froster and Jim Patrick Dr. After years of animal testing and clinical trials, Dr. Clark's device was a success. In 1978, he provided the first successful, multi-channel cochlear implant ever to Rod Saunders, a man who lost his hearing in a motorcycle accident. The device worked with a portable speech processor - someone spoke into a microphone connected to his device.

This success gave birth to Cochlear Limited as a way to make Dr. Clark's successful implant available commercially around the world.

Partnership with Nucleus

In 1980, the medical device group Nucleus partnered with Dr. Clark, and the second person received a cochlear implant. In 1981, Paul Trainor, a developer, came up with a new implant model, and the first Nucleus implant was put in place in 1982. The same year, Rod Saunders received a successful processor upgrade. By 1984, a small group established the Cochlear Americas office near Denver.

The year 1985 marked new territories and rapid advancements. Dr. Clark established The Bionic Ear Institute, a nonprofit research organization that partnered with Cochlear and University of Melbourne. The FDA approved the Nucleus implant for profoundly deaf adults ages 18 and older, and as part of clinical trials, two children received pediatric implants by 1986. In 1989, recipients of the Nucleus were upgraded to much smaller mini speech processors, which had better performance using a new speech coding strategy. That same year, the company expanded to Japan, and in 1990 the FDA at long last improved the Nucleus Cochlear Implant System for use in children as young as 2 years old.

In 1992, Cochlear had its 5,000 recipient, and by 1994 10,000 people had received the devices, which now used in an improved speech coding system called SPEAK. By 1998, hearing professionals could use the newly developed Neural Response Telemetry (NRT™) to determine if the device is functioning properly to adjust the programming. The years 1997 through 2000 saw several innovations, including a behind-the-ear processor and more advanced technology including better speech processors. In 2001, Baha Softbands were invented to give children a more wearable processor that could easily be removed when necessary. This year also marked 30,000 Nucleus recipients. In 2002, Baha was approved to treat single-sided deafness in adults and kids in the U.S., and Miss America 2002 used a Nucleus cochlear implant, providing the brand with more visibility. The brand went through several advancements in technology and size, and is today a successful company with more than 250,000 people worldwide using its implants.

What sets them apart?

Cochlear Limited is set apart by the fact that its founder was motivated to make a change by deep compassion for his father and others suffering with hearing loss. His understanding, excellent research and can-do spirit are carried forward in Cochlear Limited today. The company invests heavily in research and development to provide their users with better products and, in turn, better lives. They've received 50 awards for their innovations in hearing technologies, and seven out of ten cochlear implant recipients use implants from Cochlear Limited. Additionally, they work to surround new and experienced users with support from both on-call experts and an online resource called Cochlear Community.

Products

Today, Cochlear offers cochlear implants and bone conduction implants. The Cochlear™ Baha®3 System connects to the bone behind your ear through a minute titanium prosthesis implanted in the skull, and it sends directly to the inner ear. Typically, people who use bone conduction implants have less severe hearing loss than those who use cochlear implants, and they can still benefit from the semi-traditional amplification provided through bone-anchored implants.

Cochlear also offers the advanced Cochlear™ Nucleus® 5 System, which is the latest device to come out of the original line pioneered by Dr. Clark. It mimics natural hearing for those of any age who have severe to profound hearing loss.

Cochlear Limited is a company with a deep history of compassion that continually looks toward improving lives.

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