Neuromodulation of the Auditory Pathway Through Paired Electrical and Acoustic Stimulation: Development of a Novel Hearing Enhancement Device

The project envisions creating a University of Minnesota start-up company in the Twin Cities developing neural and audio technologies and algorithms that combine electrical and acoustic stimulation for enhancing hearing performance, with the goal of treating hearing loss locally and internationally. Abigail Heiller's research aims to develop a new non-invasive brain enhancement technology to improve hearing performance and combat hearing loss through paired music listening and comfortable electrical stimulation of the ear. The increasing aging population and prevalence of hearing loss generates an immense need and market for an enhanced hearing device to mitigate the social, psychological, cognitive, and economic impacts of hearing deficits, which is becoming a rapidly growing health crisis in society. Furthermore, hearing loss is closely linked to tinnitus, so improving hearing with this new technology could also help to treat those with comorbid hearing loss and tinnitus.

The development of a novel hearing enhancement device is expected to disrupt the hearing technology sector and would greatly benefit the citizens of Minnesota. The project envisions creating a University of Minnesota start-up company in the Twin Cities developing neural and audio technologies and algorithms that combine electrical and acoustic stimulation for enhancing hearing performance, with the goal of treating hearing loss locally and internationally. This company would contribute to the well-established and continuously growing neuromodulation and hearing technology industries in Minnesota, with potential partnership with the largest hearing aid company (Starkey; Eden Prarie, MN) and immersion into the leading hearing technology ecosystem in the United States. This project is also quite unique because it provides for the first time in Minnesota a close synergy between two of its major medical device sectors – neuromodulation and hearing aids. New jobs and innovations can be initiated through this unique synergy by leveraging and fusing the infrastructure and resources that exist within these two separate industries in the Twin Cities.

Graduate Fellow: Abigail HeillerBiomedical Engineering

Mentor: Hubert Lim, Ph.D., Otolarynogolgy, Head, and Neck Surgery