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Cochlear Ear Diagram

Apple has many ambitions for healthcare, as I wrote in Health Attitude. A particular focus is accessibility. Apple wants the hundreds of millions of people who have hearing loss or other disabilities to be able to use iPhones and iPads productively. If you click Settings, General, Accessibility, you will see the many and growing list of assistive options available. The most recent addition is the result of a partnership between Apple and Australia-based Cochlear.  

The new device is called the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor. It is specifically designed, using technology specs provided by Apple, to work with the iPhone. The new Cochlear device streams sound directly from an iPhone or iPad to the Cochlear sound processor. A FaceTime session with grandchildren can go directly to your brain. The new free iPhone app can be used to control and customize sound from the iPhone. The Nucleus 7 system was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in June.

A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device which is surgically implanted under the skin and replaces the function of a damaged inner ear. The technology is far more advanced than a hearing aid. Hearing aids are basically amplifiers, they make sounds louder. Cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear, the cochlea. A small microphone picks up voices and converts them to sound signals which are processed and sent directly to the brain. The software instructions which run on the tiny computer in the sound processor can filter out party noise, wind, or construction sound, and extract human voices.

The Cochlear company claims to spend more than $100 million per year on research. The implants and processors get smaller and lighter and have extended battery life. The cochlear implant is one of many types of non-biological devices being implanted in human bodies. If you believe in the Singularity, the day will come when you won’t be able to tell a biological person from a non-biological person.