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September 1, 2004

MATLAB aids cochlear implant development

From: Dial Infolink Electronics, Australia - Sep 1, 2004

For more than 20 years constant product development has turned Australian company Cochlear's Nucleus implant systems for the hearing impaired, from a prototype that needed to be wheeled on a trolley, to a small device that fits behind the ear with greater precision and sensitivity than ever before.

Among the research tools that has aided the development is a software system built using MATLAB software from The MathWorks (supplied by Ceanet). Nucleus Implant Communication (NIC) research tools replicate electrical stimulations to the implant, to identify how a recipient would receive these signals and perceive them as sound.

The Nucleus MATLAB Toolbox and NICstream software developed by Cochlear helps specify a speech-coding algorithm, process test signals through the algorithm, and then present the processed test signal to a cochlear implant recipient.

"Each implant is sold with software which the audiologist uses to fine tune or 'fit' the product to their patient," explains Colin Irwin, a senior software engineer at Cochlear. "Implant users have different stimulation levels and better products have meant better hearing over the phone, easier noise differentiation for simultaneous sounds and better adaptation to different speech patterns."

In addition to the MATLAB-based clinical testing software, Cochlear are using MATLAB, and other MathWorks tools such as Simulink, Stateflow and xPC Target for the design of new embedded systems within the implant and processor.

"MATLAB gives us the confidence that something is going to work before we build it," says Cochlear DSP team leader, Michael Goorevich. "The product will always have limitations - [for example] can the length of the battery life be longer? Can it be smaller? Can it perform better? Worldwide we're looking for the next breakthrough."

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