Australian medical device company Cochlear has announced the launch of its Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor, providing implant recipients with direct connectivity to their iOS devices.
The Nucleus 7 Sound Processor will allow those with a Cochlear Nucleus Implant to stream sound -- such as a phone call, YouTube video, or FaceTime conversation -- directly from a compatible iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, negating the need for an intermediary device.
Speaking with ZDNet, Cochlear chief software architect Victor Rodrigues said the new innovation essentially adds flexibility that recipients previously did not have access to.
"From the experience we've had with our clinical trials, the recipients are absolutely excited about this. They feel that this is a piece of technology they now have access to which allows them to feel more connected, allows them to feel more engaged with their social interactions, for example," Rodrigues explained.
"A YouTube video streamed directly to your sound processor -- that does have a lot of additional flexibility I think the recipients will love, and for the first time they're going to be able to experience that with a cochlear implant.
"What it's doing is allowing them to have a more connected experience with their day to day interactions with people, for example FaceTime with loved ones."
Those living with an implant will also be able to control, monitor, and customise their hearing on their iPhone or iPod touch through the Nucleus Smart App.
The app offers a Hearing Tracker feature records coil-offs time -- each time the sound processor coil does not detect the implant coil, such as if it has fallen off a child's head -- and time in speech, which measures the amount of time spent in speech environments in hours, including FM and streaming.
It also includes a Find My Processor feature and additional controls and monitoring options for parents.
Making use of the iPhone's built-in accessibility capability, users can also control basic settings from the control centre through the triple click accessibility function on the iPhone, such as changing programs, from the device's lock screen.
"From the recipients that have been in our clinical trials there's been a buzz," Rodrigues added. "I hope it will be a welcome surprise for many."
Initially, the new processor will be available only to newly inserted recipients in the United States and Canada from September, with the option for existing cochlear implant recipients to upgrade their existing sound processors in October.
With the commercial availability of the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, Cochlear is also offering a Made for iPhone Smart Bimodal Solution, which is the combination of a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other, enabling both hearing solutions to provide synchronised streaming to both ears from a compatible iOS device.
The Nucleus 7 Bimodal Solution is delivered by a Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, a compatible ReSound hearing aid, and a paired iPhone or iPod touch to control functionality for both hearing devices.
Rodrigues worked closely with Apple to develop the processor, with the tech giant adding a handful of additional features that are not yet available to the rest of the hearing aid industry.
"We've been working with them to make sure that our technology got to a point where we both agreed it was the right fit and we're excited it's materialised," he said.
"Apple are very big in the accessibility space, they have a lot of technology that takes care of users in this space. They have been such an awesome collaborator ... they look out for their end users as well."
360 million people are currently living with disabling hearing loss worldwide, with the World Health Organization expecting this figure to more than triple to 1.2 billion by 2050.
Cochlear has now provided over 450,000 people globally with hearing technology.
Cochlear scooped up audiology software company Sycle for approximately $78 million in May. Touting the acquisition as strategic, Cochlear said it would enable its partners to enhance clinic efficiency, freeing up more time to deliver patient care.
Cochlear Link also transfers data to the company in real time to global clinical support staff and repair technicians. It now synchronises its data between an outreach centre and a main clinic, meaning that an implant user no longer needs to visit the clinic as their device is analysed remotely.