App developed by Johns Hopkins undergrads gives cochlear implant users access to auditory training

August 11, 2014

Cochlear implants—small, surgically implanted electronic devices that enable someone who is deaf or severely hard of hearing to hear—are used by more the 325,000 people worldwide. While the devices don’t restore normal hearing, they provide a useful representation of sounds, making it possible to understand speech. Many people, however, face challenges learning to use cochlear implants, largely because auditory training opportunities are limited.

Three undergraduate students from the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Johns Hopkins University have come up with an iPad app called Speech Banana that expands access to auditory training, giving deaf adults with cochlear implants the ability to practice on their own. Their work is overseen by Tilak Ratnanather, an associate professor at Biomedical Engineering who was born deaf but learned to communicate using hearing aids. Ratnanather received a cochlear implant in 2012, and he knows firsthand the trials of learning to use it.

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