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August 2, 2017

New inroads into healthcare: Apple combines forces with Cochlear

The inroads Apple is making into healthcare are becoming more diverse. From using the iPhone and iPad for easier access to patient and other records to using the Apple Watch to monitor en collect data on vital functions. HealthKit, CareKit and ResearchKit help developers to create health related functions. Apple has bought several companies that work on combining patient data into broad EHR’s.

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Now, the Cupertino based tech company has combined forces with hearing aid supplier Cochlear, to roll out the first implant made for the iPhone. Last week, Cochlear introduced the world’s first Made for iPhone cochlear implant sound processor. This Nucleus 7 Sound Processor is the world’s first Made for iPhone that allows users to stream sound from iPhone, iPad and iPod touch directly to their sound processor.

The device has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in June, to be used by people with moderate to profound hearing loss. Cochlear claims it’s the smallest and lightest behind-the-ear cochlear implant sound processor available on the market. The Nucleus 7 Sound Processor works by detecting sounds which are then turned into electrical signals by the receiver-stimulator and sent to the brain by the electrode placed in the inner ear (cochlea).

Easy to use

With the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor, people with a Cochlear Nucleus Implant can stream sound from a compatible iPhone, iPad and iPod touch directly to their sound processor, Australian based Cochlear writes. They will also be able to control, monitor and customize their hearing on their iPhone or iPod touch through the Nucleus Smart App available from the App Store.

Accessing the control settings for the Cochlear implant is relatively easy, according to Cochlear. Those who get the new Nucleus 7 Sound Processor or other made for iPhone hearing aid simply go to their iPhone settings, click on “General” and then click “Accessibility.” As they move down the screen they’ll see a list of different devices among which “hearing devices.” Tap on that and then the device should show up the way a Bluetooth device would in Bluetooth settings. The implant will then pair with the iOS device.

The new Hearing Tracker feature records coil-offs time (each time the sound processor coil does not detect the implant coil, such as if it has fallen off a child’s head) and time in speech (which measures the amount of time spent in speech environments in hours, including FM and streaming)5. The Find My Processor feature of the Nucleus Smart App helps locate a lost sound processor by using Location Services to determine the last place the sound processor was connected to the paired iPhone or iPod touch, whether it has been lost on the playground, in the house or in the car.

Opening new doors

Chris Smith, Cochlear Chief Executive Officer and President, states in a press release that the new device opens the door for people with hearing loss to make phone calls, listen to music in high-quality stereo sound, watch videos and have FaceTime calls streamed directly to their cochlear implant.

"Technology that offers greater connectivity seeks to make life easier for people with hearing loss," said Laurel Mahoney, Clinical Assistant Professor of Otolaryngology at NYU Langone Health. "The advancements provided by the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor give parents more control and allow them to better monitor their child’s hearing while adults and teenagers will be able to stream music and make FaceTime calls just like their hearing friends and family."

There are 360 million people living with disabling hearing loss worldwide. This figure is set to more than triple to 1.2 billion by 2050. According to the World Health Organization, there are some 72 million people who could potentially benefit from the use of a hearing device – including a cochlear implant or hearing aid.

Cochlear is also offering the first Made for iPhone Smart Bimodal Solution (the combination of a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other), enabling both hearing solutions to provide synchronized streaming to both ears from a compatible iPhone, iPad or iPod touch4.  Commercial availability for the Nucleus 7 Sound Processor is expected in September 2017 in the United States and Canada. The Nucleus 7 Bimodal Solution is expected in September 2017 only in the United States.

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