A close-up of the new chip, equipped with a radio transmitter,
which is powered by a natural battery found deep in the
mammalian ear (credit: Patrick P. Mercier)


Medical devices
powered by the ear itself

Could power cochlear implants, diagnostics, and implantable hearing aids
November 8, 2012


Deep in the inner ear of mammals is a natural battery — a chamber filled with ions that produces an electrical potential to drive neural signals.

A team of researchers from MIT, the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) and the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) have demonstrated for the first time that this battery could power implantable electronic devices without impairing hearing.

The devices could monitor biological activity in the ears of people with hearing or balance impairments, or responses to therapies. Eventually, they might even deliver therapies themselves.

In experiments, Konstantina Stankovic, an otologic surgeon at MEEI, and HST graduate student Andrew Lysaght implanted electrodes in the biological batteries in guinea pigs’ ears. Attached to the electrodes were low-power electronic devices developed by MIT’s Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL).

Read more: Medical devices powered by the ear itself | KurzweilAI.

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