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Enjoying music with a cochlear implant

A successful Sonova research collaboration: a study at the German Hearing Center in Hanover has shown that users of  Advanced Bionics cochlear implant systems, which employ Phonak ComPilot technology, can hear stereo effects significantly better, increasing the enjoyment of music for many.

Advanced Bionics and German Hearing Center representatives swap ideas (Stefan Fredelake, European Research Center of Advanced Bionics (left); Andreas Büchner, German Hearing Center (right))
Advanced Bionics and German Hearing Center representatives swap ideas (Stefan Fredelake, European Research Center of Advanced Bionics (left); Andreas Büchner, German Hearing Center (right))

Seated in a comfortable armchair, Rudolf Beinhauer is holding a tablet computer in his hands to record his impressions. The bright room in the German Hearing Center in Hanover is equipped with several speakers, from which rock, heavy metal, pop, and classical music drift in succession – one minute Beinhauer is listening to guitars from the left, the next, there are violins from the right. This test has nothing to do with questions of taste, however – Beinhauer has bilateral cochlear implants and is taking part in a scientific study: can he identify if a song is coming from the loudspeakers in mono or stereo? Does the ability to distinguish between mono and stereo enhance the enjoyment of music for implant recipients?


The study has shown that users of Advanced Bionics cochlear implants employing Phonak ComPilot technology can hear stereo effects significantly better, increasing the enjoyment of music for many.

Stefan Fredelake, European Research Center of Advanced Bionics


Beinhauer is one of 30 test subjects in the music study, which ran from July 2013 to June 2016 in Hanover. “The results are very positive,” explains Fredelake. He wears Advanced Bionics cochlear implants himself, so he is well positioned to assess the design and results of the investigations from the wearer’s perspective as well. “The study has shown that users of Advanced Bionics cochlear implants employing Phonak ComPilot technology can hear stereo effects significantly better, increasing the enjoyment of music for many.” Advanced Bionics is pursuing a variety of research paths and, with its RehAB activities, is also placing special emphasis on supporting new users in order to optimize their hearing ability – a special online tool AB-Musikwelt enables them to find out about, and learn how to listen to music directly.

The music study is just one of numerous research projects undertaken by Advanced Bionics’ European Research Center (ERC) in collaboration with more than 30 leading universities and clinics across Europe. The development of innovative hearing solutions is being driven by this close, transparent dialog. “We work together to develop cutting-edge technologies that benefit cochlear implant recipients and audiologists alike,” explains project leader Stefan Fredelake. “The aim of our project has always been to improve implant recipients’ quality of life.”


 


“This goal unites us all,” says Andreas Büchner, Scientific Director at the German Hearing Center. Under the leadership of Thomas Lenarz, the clinic’s director, Büchner and his team have been working closely with Advanced Bionics’ research and development units in the USA and Germany for two decades, and a relationship of mutual trust has built up over the years. “I particularly like how Advanced Bionics is always willing to listen to ideas and look ahead to the future. The research projects don’t just revolve around product cycles.” Büchner is looking forward to future projects with the European Research Center. “There are plenty of topics to work on – combining a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, for example. This would allow us to benefit from the synergies generated by having Advanced Bionics and Phonak under the umbrella of the Sonova Group.”


I particularly like how Advanced Bionics is always willing to listen to ideas and look ahead to the future. The research projects don’t just revolve around product cycles.

Andreas Büchner, Scientific Director at the German Hearing Center


Rudolf Beinhauer is still listening to snatches of songs in the study room. The retired process engineer was brought to the German Hearing Center by his wish to support the European Research Center’s research. He lost his hearing completely after a bout of meningitis nearly ten years ago and was able to communicate only in writing or by SMS. “It is fascinating what is technologically possible nowadays – I sometimes ask myself how my life would have turned out if I had lost my hearing two decades earlier.” As an engineer, he understands how important data-gathering is for research: “I am happy to help, so that this development continues. If the enjoyment of music can be further improved for cochlear implant users, that would be fantastic!”


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