KU Leuven working on a revolutionary internal hearing aid


The audiologist performs an electroencephalogram (EEG) measurement to objectively map brain waves. This is necessary for the correct fitting of a cochlear implant (CI). But it is possible to do even better, as the implant itself measures brain waves.

Some people, such as children who are deaf from birth or elderly people with dementia, are unable or insufficiently able to indicate how well or poorly they hear. A conventional EEG can provide guidance. But this soon requires a lot of electrodes on the head. Postdoctoral researcher Ben Somers from KU Leuven found this method rather laborious.Using the electrodes of an experimental cochlearimplant, which works in the same way as its regular counterpart, he was able to directly record the brain waves that occurred in response to sound.

This kind of spontaneous recording has several advantages. It is objective and does not require any contribution from the implant wearer. The measurement can also be taken in everyday listening situations. The audiologist can adjust the settings if required, possibly remotely via a computer or smartphone. It is expected that, in the future, the implant will be able to adapt to the recorded brain waves. Finally, non-audiological applications are within reach, such as sleep and epilepsy monitoring and brain-controlled interfaces.