MED-EL announced that, on September 24, “the first person in Europe received a novel totally implantable cochlear implant (TICI).” It was implanted by Professor Dr Philippe Lefebvre, head of the ENT Department of the CHU of Liège and Professor at the University of Liège in Belgium within a feasibility study. However, it is expected to take several years before receiving market approval, according to MED-EL’s announcement.
A young man with close to profound hearing loss was the first person in Europe to receive a fully implantable cochlear implant. Cochlear implant (CI) systems, which bypass the non-functioning part of the ear and stimulate the hearing nerve electrically, have long been a standard treatment for individuals with severe-to-profound hearing loss. They currently consist of an internal implant which is surgically placed underneath the skin, and an audio processor which is worn externally, behind or off the ear. The audio processor contains the microphone required to pick up sound as well as the power supply.
“Our cochlear implants have helped hundreds of thousands of people around the world to hear and have improved their quality of life. Many users have expressed the wish for a CI that works without an external component on or off the ear, is invisible, and operates even when users are asleep,” said Dr Ingeborg Hochmair, Founder and CEO of MED-EL.
MED-EL believes that totally implantable cochlear implants will be “the most innovative and sophisticated technology in the field of hearing solutions.” The TICI contains all the internal and external components of a cochlear implant system in one device placed underneath the skin, including the audio processor, microphone, and power supply.
“It is our mission to overcome hearing loss as a barrier to communication and quality of life,” said Hochmair. “For decades, our research and development has been based on close interdisciplinary collaboration with clinics and university departments. These collaborations allow us to continuously advance technology and solutions for people with a hearing loss. Developing a totally implantable device has been in the focus of MED-EL´s research for many years. I am very proud of our dedicated team of experts who have worked with creativity and diligence to develop this unique device within well over a decade.”
Dr Philippe Lefebvre is a “leading expert in auditory implantology” with broad expertise in implantable microphone technology, according to MED-EL’s announcement.
“We tested the implant after surgery and are thrilled that everything is working as expected,” he said. “Modern cochlear implant technology has been evolving at an impressive pace, delivering outstanding hearing results. The TICI is a milestone within the field of cochlear implantation. It has been a wish from the early days of cochlear implantation to be able to integrate all components within an internal device.”
Several more surgeries with the totally implantable cochlear implant will follow in Liège and Munich in the next couple of months as part of the clinical feasibility study.