GentleCI

Team:  M.Sc. Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Jan-Philipp Kobler
Year:  2010
Sponsors:  BMBF

Laser-based fabrication of NiTi-Micro-actuators by laser sintering for minimally invasive Cochlea-implant insertion

Cochlea implants (CIs) are hearing aids comprising an electrode array being implanted into the cochlea’s scala tympani to directly electrically stimulate the auditory nerve, bypassing the whole transmission chain and the hair cells. Following first experiments by Djourno and Eyriès in 1957, cochlear implants moved from experimental to clinical devices in the 1980s and became the standard treatment for patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. For deaf born infants CIs provide the only possibility for nearly normal hearing and speech development if implanted within the first years of age. For older children, adults, or elderly patients with age related hearing loss CIs represent the only treatment if amplifying hearing aids no longer provide sufficient help.

In order to achieve a contactless and thereby riskless insertion into the spiral-wound cochlea while preserving the residual hearing ability, actuated implants offer promissing abilities. The goal of this project is to design innovative electrodes by making use of shape memory micro-actuators, which take the desired shape dependent on the patient's body temperature. The insertion preocedure for these electrodes is based on high resolution medical imaging, surgical planning and a robot assisted, minimally invasive intervention. By this means, damage to the intracochlear structures can be prevented due to an insertion along the patient specific geometry of the cochlea.