Scientists set their sights on hearing breakthrough for babies

Dec 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first year to two years of life is a critical time for hearing impaired children and their language development. Whilst young babies with hearing difficulties can now be fitted with cochlear implants, accurately assessing the effectiveness of the implants does present challenges prior to their development of language skills.

However, a major breakthrough may now be on the horizon, thanks to a bourgeoning collaboration of the world's leading experts in , engineering and cognitive development.

The international team, comprising experts from Macquarie University, the Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT), Cochlear Limited, National Acoustic Laboratories, and the CSIRO, met at Macquarie University this week to discuss plans for a world-first brain imaging device that will allow scientists to test the of hearing impaired babies fitted with .

Such a device would improve hearing specialists' ability to accurately assess the effectiveness of a baby's implant and then make adjustments if needed - even before the child can speak - to give them the best hearing possible and assist with .

"Ultimately the aim is to be able to better adjust the implants while the children are still very young - only babies - so their will proceed normally from a very early age," said Professor Stephen Crain, from Macquarie University's Centre for Cognitive Science.

"At the moment accurately measuring how well a cochlear implant is working in a very young child is difficult. This is because babies and toddlers are unable to communicate effectively using language, so they can't describe to scientists what they are hearing or how loud and clear something may sound to them," he said.

"If we can achieve early implantation and then adjust the implant to the child's brain, we believe we can make implants more effective."

Crain and his team devised the first brain imaging system in the world that can measure the magnetic fields generated by a child's brain during cognitive processing. Called a MEG system - short for magnetoencephalography - the device was developed by scientists from Japan's Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) and is now housed at Macquarie University's cognitive science laboratory.

"It is probably possible to construct a map of the auditory cortex of a child with normal hearing using our existing child MEG system, but if we tried to test a child with a cochlear implant, the system would be overwhelmed by the powerful signals emitted by its electronic components," Crain said.

"In order to successfully develop a system which can be used with these children, we need to invent a completely new way of shielding the MEG sensors from the powerful magnetic waves generated by a cochlear implant."

If such a device can be developed, Crain and his team will establish ‘normal' cognitive function by using a control group of children without hearing impairment, before working with young children fitted with cochlear implants.

Work is expected to commence on a prototype of the new system early next year.

Provided by Macquarie University

Explore further: US scientists make embryonic stem cells from adult skin

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

World-first device may help solve child language mystery

Oct 07, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers are one step closer to understanding why children can learn languages far more easily than adults, thanks to a world-first device that allows scientists to measure the magnetic ...

MRI machines may damage cochlear implants

Dec 01, 2008

Patients with cochlear implants may want to steer clear of certain magnetic imaging devices, such as 3T MRI machines, because the machines can demagnetize the patient's implant, according to new research published in the ...

Cochlear Implants Offer Kids A Gift Beyond Hearing

Feb 18, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- For years, hearing scientists have known that cochlear implants improve the communication of children who receive them. What they didn’t know was whether the children and their parents perceived ...

Recommended for you

Leeches help save woman's ear after pit bull mauling

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)—A pit bull attack in July 2013 left a 19-year-old woman with her left ear ripped from her head, leaving an open wound. After preserving the ear, the surgical team started with a reconnection ...

New pain relief targets discovered

Apr 17, 2014

Scientists have identified new pain relief targets that could be used to provide relief from chemotherapy-induced pain. BBSRC-funded researchers at King's College London made the discovery when researching ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.