History of the Cochlear Implant

Charles Grasier, one of the first CI patients, undergoing testing at the L.A. Foundation of Otology circa 1974 with William House, MD (rear) and Jack Urban.

Critical Junctures in Cochlear Implant Development

1957—Paris: Eyriès implants Djourno’s coils; alternating current transmitted to the coil produces perception of sound.

1960-61—Los Angeles: House and Doyle begin work on prosthesis; effect electrical stimulation during stapes surgery; implant three patients with a single gold electrode.

1964—Palo Alto, Calif.: Simmons, at Stanford, develops a six-electrode system using a percutaneous plug.

1969-70—Los Angeles: House implants first hardwire five-electrode system in three patients.

1970-71—San Francisco: Michelson and colleagues at UC San Francisco implant three patients using a gold two-electrode system; Michelson and Bartz work with four patients and perform bipolar scala tympani procedure, efforts that would later coalesce into Advanced Bionics.

1972—Los Angeles: First wearable CI device and first induction system, using a centering coil and attaching magnet, are developed by House’s team.

1973-76—Paris: Chouard pioneers the 12-electrode array.

1974—San Francisco: First International Conference on Electrical Stimulation of the Acoustic Nerve.

1977-78—Vienna: Team led by Hochmair designs and manufactures a passive single-channel broadband analog implant, efforts that later lead to the founding of MED-EL.

1977—Washington, DC: Patent granted to Adam Kissiah, a NASA engineer who first described the conversion process by which electronic stimuli are detected by the acoustic nerve and interpreted by the brain as meaningful sound patterns.

1977—Washington, DC: Publication of the Bilger Report, produced by a team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, which lent credibility to efficacy of CIs and led to NIH research support.

1978—Melbourne, Australia: Clark and colleagues develop multi-channel prototype with an array of 20 electrodes, efforts that would later lead to the founding of Cochlear Ltd., a branch of Nucleus, manufacturer of heart pacemakers.

1978—Los Angeles, Indiana and other sites: first multi-center trial of cochlear implants.

1984—Silver Spring, Md.: FDA approves the House/3M single-channel implant for adults.

1987-2000—Silver Spring, Md.: FDA approves multiple-channel implant for adults (1987), multiple-channel CI for children 2 years of age and older (1990), multiple channel for children 18 months and older (1998) and multiple channel for infants 1 year of age (2000).

Early 1990s—Los Angeles: Robert V. Shannon, MD, and colleagues develop a noise band vocoder that simulates CI processing, discovering that four bands of modulated noise are sufficient to allow high levels of speech understanding (Science. 1995;270:303-304).