A multidisciplinary approach to understanding and improving hearing by cochlear implant users


  • Dr Robert Carlyon

    University of Cambridge

  • Prof John Middlebrooks

    University of California, Irvine

  • Prof Jan Wouters

    Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies

Project summary

Cochlear implants (CIs) restore hearing to deaf people by electrically stimulating the auditory nerve. This allows speech to be understood in quiet surroundings, but it is often a struggle in noisy backgrounds and pitch perception can be poor.

We will study the reasons for these limitations and test new ways of overcoming them. We will combine experiments with people with CIs who can perform quite complicated perceptual tests, with experiments using cats. This will allow us to test new methods that are not possible in humans, and to understand the physiological basis of the limitations in the benefits provided by CIs. In many cases we will perform the same experiment in both cats and humans, such as simple discrimination tasks and EEG recording of the brain's response to stimulation.

Our tests will tell us not only what works and what doesn't, but also explain why, thereby providing a principled basis for further innovations.