News Column

Patent Issued for Electromagnetic Bone Conduction Hearing Device

July 23, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Journal of Engineering -- Vibrant Med-El Hearing Technology GmbH (Innsbruck, AT) has been issued patent number 8774930, according to news reporting originating out of Alexandria, Virginia, by VerticalNews editors.

The patent's inventor is Ball, Geoffrey R. (Axams, AT).

This patent was filed on September 6, 2012 and was published online on July 8, 2014.

From the background information supplied by the inventors, news correspondents obtained the following quote: "A normal ear transmits sounds as shown in FIG. 1 through the outer ear 101 to the tympanic membrane (eardrum) 102, which moves the ossicles of the middle ear 103 (malleus, incus, and stapes) that vibrate the oval window 106 and round window 107 membranes of the cochlea 104. The cochlea 104 is a long narrow duct wound spirally about its axis for approximately two and a half turns. It includes an upper channel known as the scala vestibuli and a lower channel known as the scala tympani, which are connected by the cochlear duct. The cochlea 104 forms an upright spiraling cone with a center called the modiolar where the spiral ganglion cells of the cochlear nerve 105 reside. In response to received sounds transmitted by the middle ear 103, the fluid-filled cochlea 104 functions as a transducer to generate electric pulses which are transmitted to the cochlear nerve 105, and ultimately to the brain.

"Hearing is impaired when there are problems in the ability to transduce external sounds into meaningful action potentials along the neural substrate of the cochlea 104. To improve impaired hearing, auditory prostheses have been developed. For example, when the impairment is related to operation of the middle ear 103, a conventional hearing aid or middle ear implant may be used to provide acoustic-mechanical stimulation to the auditory system in the form of amplified sound. Or when the impairment is associated with the cochlea 104, a cochlear implant with an implanted stimulation electrode can electrically stimulate auditory nerve tissue with small currents delivered by multiple electrode contacts distributed along the electrode.

"Middle ear implants employ electromagnetic transducers to convert sounds into mechanical vibration of the middle ear 103. A coil winding is held stationary by attachment to a non-vibrating structure within the middle ear 103 and microphone signal current is delivered to the coil winding to generate an electromagnetic field. A magnet is attached to an ossicle within the middle ear 103 so that the magnetic field of the magnet interacts with the magnetic field of the coil. The magnet vibrates in response to the interaction of the magnetic fields, causing vibration of the bones of the middle ear 103. See U.S. Pat. No. 6,190,305, which is incorporated herein by reference.

"U.S. Patent Publication 20070191673 (incorporated herein by reference) describes another type of implantable hearing prosthesis system which uses bone conduction to deliver an audio signal to the cochlea for sound perception in persons with conductive or mixed conductive/sensorineural hearing loss. An implanted floating mass transducer (FMT) is affixed to the temporal bone. In response to an externally generated electrical audio signal, the FMT couples a mechanical stimulation signal to the temporal bone for delivery by bone conduction to the cochlea for perception as a sound signal. A certain amount of electronic circuitry must also be implanted with the FMT to provide power to the implanted device and at least some signal processing which is needed for converting the external electrical signal into the mechanical stimulation signal and mechanically driving the FMT."

Supplementing the background information on this patent, VerticalNews reporters also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "Embodiments of the present invention include an external component for an implantable hearing prosthesis of a recipient patient. An external housing contains an attachment magnet configured to magnetically connect with an implant magnet of an implanted signal transducer. A pair of external electromagnetic drive coils within the external housing are adjacent to the attachment magnet for conducting electrical current to develop magnetic drive signals through the skin to the signal transducer to generate responsive vibrations of the signal transducer for perception by the patient as sound. The drive coils are configured such that their respective magnetic drive signals have opposing magnetic directions.

"There also may be a signal processor for generating electrical drive signals for the electromagnetic drive coils. The signal processor may be enclosed within the external housing, or within a signal processor housing separate from and connected to the external housing. There also may be at least one sensing microphone for developing an audio input signal to the signal processor."

For the URL and additional information on this patent, see: Ball, Geoffrey R.. Electromagnetic Bone Conduction Hearing Device. U.S. Patent Number 8774930, filed September 6, 2012, and published online on July 8, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO1&Sect2=HITOFF&d=PALL&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsrchnum.htm&r=1&f=G&l=50&s1=8774930.PN.&OS=PN/8774930RS=PN/8774930

Keywords for this news article include: Bone Research, Vibrant Med-El Hearing Technology GmbH.

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Source: Journal of Engineering


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