Cochlear implant firm unveils implants that work directly with iPhone

Hearing implant company Cochlear Ltd., has said it can now stream audio directly from Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod to the microchips in its hearing implants without having to use an additional device.

Previously, Cochlear’s sound processors worked with mobile phones, but implant wearers had to connect the sound processor to an intermediate Bluetooth device – usually worn around the neck like a pendant – that would then pair with a phone.

“It’s the first time people with an iPhone will be able to pick up the phone normally, or just listen to music, without any additional devices,” Jan Janssen, senior vice president of research and development at Cochlear, told Reuters.

The iPhone capabilities will come in Cochlear’s newest sound processor that sits outside the ear, the Nucleus 7, expected to be released in September. Users can upgrade the processor without a new implant.

Colorado-based Cochlear’s processors gather sound from the environment, turning it into an electrical signal and send it to an electrode implanted in the ears of people with hearing loss.

Apple has also worked with firms such as GN ReSound and Starkey, which can also connect directly to the iPhone. Apple developed the protocols with the firms and licenses it to them for free.

“We had to figure out how you could do a bi-modal solution where you’re able to simultaneously pair, control and hear both of them running at the same time,” she said. “That was a really interesting engineering opportunity for us to solve.”