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April 23, 1982

'Electronic hearing' draws mixed reviews

JAMA. 1982;247(16):2204-2205. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320410010004

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An electronic hearing system has enabled more than 50 people who were classified as totally deaf to understand some speech, according to its inventor, French surgeon Claude-Henri Chouard, MD, a professor at the University of Paris medical school.

The method involves implantation of 12 electrodes in the inner ear to stimulate the auditory nerve. It has been used for both congenital and acquired deafness, and the first patients, operated on more than five years ago, continue to have some hearing capacity.

Based on results so far, Chouard estimates that this system could give some understanding of speech to 80% to 90% of those who are totally deaf and could enable 60% to understand speech reasonably well, although not as well as people with normal hearing. In the United States, an estimated 200,000 to 300,000 persons are totally deaf.

However, one American researcher calls Chouard's technique "quite controversial," and Michel Portmann,