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Advanced Cochlear Systems to be Awarded Patent for New Cochlear Implant Technologies

New methods of electrode stimulation will result in more accurate representation of sound

Advanced Cochlear Systems (ACS) today announced that it has received a Notice of Allowance from the United States Patent and Trademark Office indicating the allowance of its patent titled "A Method for the Real-Time Transformation of an Electrical Signal Representative of a Waveform." The company has also been notified that the patent office expects to issue the patent on November 12, 2002.

The patent will protect ACS proprietary technology enabling different sound frequencies to stimulate distinct regions of the cochlea in a way that mimics natural hearing more closely than cochlear implants currently on the market. The technology also preserves the exact timing of sound waves, providing the foundation for the development of binaural cochlear implants.

"For the past two decades, the development of cochlear implant technology has been limited to a series of small incremental steps. This patent represents a major advance in how we address hearing loss and is the first component of our new generation of cochlear implant technology," said ACS President John Hrobsky. "The technology that ACS is pursuing, including three other patents for which we have applied, is designed to markedly increase speech recognition, especially in noisy environments, and enable hearing impaired individuals to appreciate music and other sounds associated with life's daily activities."

The cochlea, located in the inner ear, translates the mechanical energy of sound waves into electrical energy that stimulates the auditory nerve. Each of the 30,000 hair cells in the cochlea responds to a different frequency, creating a rich, complex tapestry of sound. Hearing loss and deafness occur when the hair cells are damaged or die. Cochlear implants substitute a tiny electrode array for the hair cells, but current implant technology stimulates only 22 sites, one site at a time, within the cochlea. This limited amount of information makes it difficult to identify many spoken words and everyday sounds without additional aids such as context or lip reading. The electrode being developed by ACS will be capable of simultaneously stimulating multiple sites within the cochlea, providing significantly more speech signal information and enhancing the perception of music and other sounds.

People with normal hearing can determine the location of a sound because the sound waves arrive at each ear at slightly different times. Current cochlear implants, which are normally used in only one ear, do not preserve the exact timing of a sound wave and cannot provide this important spatial information. The preservation of the timing information will make it possible for people with cochlear implants in both ears to localize the direction from which sound is coming. If approved for binaural use, this technology could provide stereo hearing for implant recipients.

About 28 million Americans suffer some degree of hearing loss. Severe to profound hearing impairment affects approximately 1 million people in the U.S. and more than twice that number worldwide. The societal costs of deafness are staggering. Providing a suitable educational environment for deaf children is more expensive than for those with any other disability. More than half of profoundly deaf adults face chronic unemployment or underemployment. It is estimated that the lifetime cost of deafness, including both medical and educational costs and lost productivity, exceeds $1 million per child. The ability to restore hearing in both children and adults can greatly mitigate these outlays and offer a vastly improved quality of life.

About Advanced Cochlear Systems (ACS)

Located near Seattle, Advanced Cochlear Systems' mission is to develop and commercialize a new generation of cochlear implants that will dramatically improve speech comprehension and sound clarity for severely and profoundly deaf individuals. Founded in 1995, ACS has assembled a team of experts in cochlear neurophysiology, digital speech processing, optoelectronics, medical device packaging, high-density interconnection and bioengineering.

CONTACT:

Advanced Cochlear Systems
John Hrobsky, 425/396-5525
jhrobsky@advcoch.com

OR

Firmani & Associates
Shelly F. Cohen, 206/443-9357
shelly@firmani.com

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