MELBOURNE — Australia’s HEARing Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), a collaborative group of 21 internationally-recognized organizations, announced on August 24th promising new research suggesting slowly released drugs to the inner ear via electrodes may improve cochlear implant performance.
According to HEARing CRC CEO, Professor Robert Cowan, research using an electrode array that slowly releases anti-inflammatory drugs into the cochlea following cochlear implantation could lead to future benefits for cochlear implant users.
Professor Cowan was quoted in a recent HEARing CRC press release:
“The beauty of this approach is that it is based on use of the standard cochlear implant electrode array inserted into the inner ear that delivers sound sensations to the brain via the electrical stimulation of hearing nerve cells. Research with our partners at the University of Wollongong’s ARC Centre of Excellence for Electro-materials Science had confirmed the feasibility of using a passive diffusion of drug from the electrode surface as a means of drug delivery to the cochlea over an extended period of up to 4-6 weeks.”
In the study involving ten adult patients in two Australian clinics, the cochlear implant electrode array was modified to slowly release a cortico-steroid, a drug commonly used to reduce inflammation. The surgeons reported no compromise in surgical insertion characteristics with the experimental array.
Their initial results confirmed lower electrical impedance levels for the drug-eluting array patients, as compared with control groups from both clinics. Impedance levels continued to remain lower 12 months post-implantation for the group that used the cortico-steroid during the implant surgery.
The research report suggested the suppression of the inflammatory reaction in the cochlea following electrode insertion, combined with slimmer electrode designs and newer surgical techniques,is likely responsible for the lower electrode impedance levels found in this study and perhaps the preservation of an implant user’s residual hearing abilities.
In addition, this report (and others like it) indicates the combined use of slimmer electrodes, newer surgical techniques, and prophylactic use of anti-inflammatory drugs, may contribute to an uptick in the number of people with significant hearing loss seeking cochlear implants.
*title image courtesy Vanderbilt