Iowa Patent of the Month – December 2021

When soundwaves move across the cochlea in our inner ear, it causes the movement of hair cells. The vibrations of the soundwaves are converted to electrical signals and sent to the cochlear nerve. The hair cells and nerves in the outer region of the spiralled cochlea are more sensitive to higher frequencies and are usually the first part of the cochlea to lose sensitivity.

Damage to the cochlea can lead to profound hearing loss. This damage can come from excessive noise exposure, drugs, genetic mutations, or even simply ageing. While cochlear implants are a common treatment option, it requires a surgical implant procedure. Existing procedures can have side effects or limitations, leading to intracochlear damage.

iotaMotion, Inc. has developed a system capable of robotically controlling the delivery and positioning of a cochlear implant during surgery – improving outcomes and reducing likelihood of damage.

To achieve this, iotaMotion developed a system which uses an external positioning unit and specialised software. The external positioning unit is designed to hold the implant, and also has grips to securely align with the attachment region – in this case, the patient’s head. The control console is equipped with the necessary software and hardware to control the external positioning unit. The software is designed to follow multiple implant delivery protocols, which the physician selects from. Within the system, there are more sensors which detect motion of the implant during implantation. The surgeon can monitor in real time the progress of the implantation and adjust motion control as needed. 

The system controls the speed of the implant insertion to prevent damage to the cochlea, or any other part of the ear. It provides greater stability and control than would be achievable by human capabilities. And it can be modified to suit other implant surgeries.

Are you developing new technology for an existing application? Did you know your development work could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and you can receive up to 14% back on your expenses? Even if your development isn’t successful your work may still qualify for R&D credits (i.e. you don’t need to have a patent to qualify). To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today or check out our free online eligibility test.

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