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Cochlear - MAIN

Design and technology

How might a cochlear implant empower a person who loses their hearing?
What is the alternative view by the Deaf community of cochlear implants?
Name another product or system that empowers deaf people. How does it improve their opportunities?
Do you think all children should learn sign language at school? Why?
What skills and resources did each of the partners bring to the Cochlear project?
Suggest how good communication between the partners in a joint venture could be ensured.
In a joint venture, how could a partner making a greater contribution be assured of receiving a greater reward than a partner who made a smaller contribution?
What services does Cochlear provide to its clients?
Name another product for which a network of service providers exists.
Discuss the opportunities for innovators in providing services to an ageing population.
Design a device to alert a deaf person that a visitor is at their front door.
Debate: Cochlear implants are suitable for all deaf people. See for opinions.

Engineering studies

Investigate other types of cochlear implants. Compare and contrast the social and economic advantages and disadvantages of each. Compare the differences in materials used in other cochlear implants.
Discuss the impact of cochlear implants on people's lives.
Classify and identify the materials used in the Nucleus® 24 Contour. Compare the macrostructure and properties of these materials. See table.

Part Classification Material name General properties Specific properties
Casing Metal Titanium Strength, non corrosive lightness
Write an engineering report on the role of the bio-engineer in cochlear implant technology.
Discuss, with the aid of diagrams and freehand sketches, the manufacture of wire suitable for the electrodes used in a cochlear implant.

a) Explain the differences between the extrusion and drawing processes.
b) Develop neat sketches illustrating the microstructures resulting from the extrusion and drawing processes.

c) Compare the differences in mechanical properties that would result from hot and cold drawing of wire. You should refer to the differences in microstructures to aid your explanation.
d) Explain and justify whether a cold-worked or a hot-worked wire would be best suited to the cochlear implant electrode component.

Write a report discussing why the cochlear implant was not developed for human use prior to the 1970s.
Trace the development in materials used to manufacture hearing aids.
Discuss how changes in technology have advanced the development of hearing aids.
Discuss in detail the social, environmental and cultural effects as they apply to hearing aid developments as a result of technological change in engineering. Include as part of your research sketches to support your response.


Information processes and technology
Information systems

1. For a cochlear implant system, diagrammatically represent the information system.
(BOS, 1999:14)
2. Distinguish between, and categorise activities within a cochlear implant system, in terms of the seven information processes.

For a cochlear implant system, identify the people who are:

  • in the environment
  • users of the information system
  • participants in the information system.
4. Identify the data in the cochlear implant system and the information that it is transformed.
5. Represent diagrammatically the flow of data and information through a cochlear implant system. Identify the information processes.
6. Describe how the data used by a cochlear implant system is digitised by the hardware that collects it.
7. Given the new developments in communications technology is hearing impairment the same disability today as yesterday?
8. Compare and contrast teleconferencing and messaging systems for hearing and hearing impaired individuals.

Social and ethical issues

Discuss the social and ethical issues of the cost of and access to the cochlear implant.

Debate the following topic:

Allocation of public funding to projects such as cochlear implants is inappropriate given the advances in communications technology that place less emphasis on audio data.

Identify the key arguments from the Deaf community in support of a Deaf culture.
Many of the multimedia programs and activities on the Internet combine audio and video data. How has the development of the cochlear implant impacted on the use of such technologies for the hearing impaired?
Is it possible for the hearing impaired to fully participate in computer technology based communication systems? Explain your answer.
A cochlear implant involves invasive surgery. Describe two social and ethical considerations faced by parents who consent to the installation of this information system in a young child.


Research the effectiveness of the cochlear implant when using audio technology such as teleconferencing. Is there distortion or interference? Are there disadvantages to its use in these situations?
Research future directions for cochlear implant information systems.
Cochlear information systems are generally only performed on individuals whose auditory nerve is intact. Propose a method by which a cochlear implant system could be designed to meet changing needs.

Further reading
AAD (2001) Policy on Cochlear implants. Australian Association of the Deaf Inc. (AAD), 20.2.01.
Ackhurst, S. (1989) Broken silence, Collins Publishers, Melbourne.
Beister, C. and Morgan, C. (2000) Deaf culture, deaf community and education, Education December 11, p. 23.
Clark, G. (2000) Sounds from silence: Graeme Clark and the bionic ear story, Allen & Unwin, Sydney.
Epstein, J. (1989) The story of the bionic ear, Hyland House, Melbourne.
Renew, R. (1996) Making it, Innovation and success in Australia's industries, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Special Education Directorate (2001) The Internet - Curbs, cuts or speed bumps for those with disabilities?, Special Education Directorate, NSW Department of Education and Training. 22/2/01.

Deaf community
Australian Association of the Deaf
Deaf Youth Online


Cochlear Pty Ltd
East Melbourne Hearing Research Centre (Bionic Ear Institute, Cochlear Implant Clinic, CRC for Hearing and Communication Research)
NOVA. Australian Academy of Science

Australian and European standards
FDA: US regulations for medical devices
Medical Device Agency, UK: information on CE marking and the Global Harmonisation Task Force (GHTF)
Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australia: information on Australian requirements, new & proposed & GHTF

Other resources
Know how CD ROM (Powerhouse Museum)
Hearing Support Unit, NSW Department of Education and Training
The Children's Cochlear Implant Centre (NSW).

AAD (2001) Policy on Cochlear implants. Australian Association of the Deaf Inc. (AAD), 20.2.01.
Cochlear Ltd (2001) Nucleus® 24,, 19/2/01.
Cochlear Ltd (2000) 2000 Annual Report, Cochlear Pty Ltd, Sydney.
Epstein, J. (1989) The story of the bionic ear, Hyland House, Melbourne.
Renew, R. (1996) Making it, Innovation and success in Australia's industries, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.
Stewart-Muirhead, E. (2000) 'Fixing' deafness: Ethical issues in cochlear implantation, 7/12/00.

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