Oct 2017 Australian Business Review, EFTM, AppleInsider and 9to5Mac

Patients wearing revolutionary Australian-invented Cochlear implants will soon enjoy speech and music delivered straight from an iPhone to their brain. Apple said its accessibility ­engineering team had worked with Cochlear to adapt a special form of Bluetooth low-energy audio (LEA) that links an iPhone with the external part of a new Coch­lear system known as the Nucleus 7 sound processor. The Nucleus 7 was launched in Australia on Oct 25th.

The project has been under way a long time. Apple first mentioned it was working with Cochlear on a Made for iPhone hearing aid at its Worldwide Developers Conference in 2012. The breakthrough involves making sure that Bluetooth connectivity doesn’t rapidly exhaust the hearing system’s battery. In the past, the only way an iPhone could link to a Cochlear implant was through a third device — extra technology that users had to carry with them. And they couldn’t monitor the Cochlear system from their phone. Now they will be able to receive phone calls, listen to iTunes music, watch movies and make FaceTime calls on their iPhone through the new hook-up.

Checking the Cochlear’s status on an iPhone.

iPhone iPhoneOn-phone sound controls 

Retired IT project manager Mark Moretti, 61, from Ingleburn, NSW, has trialled the new system for a year. “It’s just so much more convenient not having the battery go flat on you which was one of the biggest problems,” he said. Cochlear chief technology officer Jan Janssen said the Nucleus 7 had other features. A hearing tracker lets parents know how many hours a Cochlear-wearing child is exposed to speech each day. “It’s really important that the brain gets used for this type of stimulation,” Mr Janssen said. The Cochlear app had a “find my sound processor” function which let wearers geolocate the external part of the Cochlear system on a map. It’s similar to Find My Phone.

Apple’s director of accessibility Sarah Herrlinger said accessibility had been part of Apple’s DNA from the start. “It’s something that we are really passionate about as a company,” she said. “We consider it one of our core corporate values, an area where we put significant amount of time and energy ensuring our products work for everyone. “We started looking at this program around the concept of Bluetooth Low Energy and how it would be a beneficial tool in this specific circumstance. The work we have done is applicable both to hearing aids and sound processors.”
She said many Cochlear patients had both a hearing aid, and cochlear implant on the other side. “We made this work when you may have two different devices, it may even be from two different companies.”

Ms. Herrlinger said the development work was undertaken by the Apple team and Cochlear in the US and Australia and across multiple companies with hearing aid products. The integration work took place over 2 to 3 years.
While Apple had worked integrating an iPhone with hearing aids, Cochlear was the first to connect a sound processor with. an Apple device. The Cochlear system works with the range of iOS devices - recent iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch models.

iPod TouchA patient wearing a Cochlear Nucleus 7 sound processor watches a movie on an iPad.

A recipient can now make calls, Facetime, listen to music in stereo, watch videos and even get the navigation from the phone when driving.

iPhoneOne additional use for this technology is something called “Live Listen” which uses the iPhone of the user and if they place it on the table or hand it to someone else, the microphones in the iPhone allow the implant recipient to hear clearly the conversation going on. It’s a very simple thing, but it’s a credit to Apple who seem to go over and above many others when it comes to accessibility on their devices.




July 2017

Business Mirror and the news.pl

People with cochlear implants gave a concert at the World Hearing Center near Warsaw on as Poland marks 25 years since the first such device was implanted in the country.

Music score 

MUSICIANS from all over the world recently converged for the “Beats of Cochlea” festival, where they showcased their talents, shared their love for music and received mentoring from world-class peers and professionals. What made the music festival extra special is the fact that it was especially created for people with hearing loss to fulfill their musical dreams. The performers represented a wide range of age groups, backgrounds and playing experiences, but all of them had one thing in common: They all use a hearing-implant in order to hear, appreciate music and experience the sense of sound as a normal hearing person should.

 Music students

Morta and guitaristMorta (right) being mentored on guitar by a professional musician

Polish surgeon Prof. Henryk Skarżyński, who heads the World Hearing Center, said that 25 years ago, his hopes for implant patients were that they would be able to hear and understand speech. “Today we hope that they will be able to pursue … musical careers,” he said, adding that this showed the progress that has been made in the field. Skarżyński also said that it was also proof that music was therapeutic and sped up therapy.

Following the success of the inaugural festival in 2015, this one-of-a-kind international music festival continues to demonstrate that, with today’s achievements in modern science and medicine, even those with severe hearing loss can live out their passion for music. Including those from the Philippines, participants—aged 6 years old through to 39—came from the UK, Poland, China, Greece, Taiwan, Ukraine, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Austria,Singapore and the Phillipines. All of them sing, compose and play one or multiple instruments, such as the violin, guitar, piano, flute, drums and guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument. Some were inclined to jazz, while others have a passion for classical, with the rest seeking rock-star status or pop fame. Although having unique hearing-loss journeys, a shared passion for music brought these people together from around the world.

This year the festival adopted a new and improved format, which included vocal and instrumental master classes with professional musicians from around the world. Within the four-day meet, the musicians shared their experiences with festival attendees. The event concluded with a gala concert where participants performed the musical pieces they developed during the master classes. Hearing-implant recipients who qualified to the festival included Filipina Maria Sharlene Morta, 17, who sang an original composition with her own guitar accompaniment.  Others were: 39-year-old Eva Costa from Portugal, who played the flute; Kazakhstan-native Chingiz Agibaev, aged 6, who performed a vocal piece; and Charlie Denton, 10, from Gloucestershire, UK, who is a master with the violin and piano.

Morta is currently Grade 11 at San Beda College Alabang (SBCA). In an e-mail interview, the teenager said she loves to play different musical instruments, such as the piano, guitar, violin and ukulele. “I also love songwriting, which leads me to appreciate music more. And I used to dance ballet, contemporary, hip-hop and jazz.” According to her mom Shalini, the prodigy passed Grade-7 piano and Grade-5 theory examinations of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) of London in December 2016 and 2014, respectively. With these, she is qualified to teach primary levels of ABRSM students.  The young Morta also passed with merit the Grade-2 guitar in ABRSM. Likewise, she also received a merit from the Royal Academy of Dance, London, for Level 3-certificate in Vocational Graded examination in Dance: Intermediate (Ballet) in April 2015 and Grade-3 distinction in 2010. It was such a big feat for Morta, who received her cochlear implant in August 2004 when she was barely 5 years old. The teenager said she is blessed to learn from musical artists through the mentorship training, as this could help her launch a composer-artist career. She would love to become an artist who can inspire the world through her performances and work. “My ultimate goal would be to be able to inspire people by encouraging them to aim high and reach their dreams, whether they have a hearing loss or not. And I really hope that I can write more songs and collaborate with amazing singers such as Adele, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift and other world-class artists,” she declared.

July 2017 Reading Chronicle

A deaf mother who was woken up by firefighters rushing her and her daughter out of a smoke-filled home thanked the emergency services for rescuing them. Chloe Stoakes arose to plumes of thick black smoke after an abandoned hob had been left on overnight. Firefighters and neighbours had banged on the door but Ms Stoakes, 46, cannot hear during the night because she removes her cochlear implant. Crews had no choice but to break into the house in Mayfield Drive, Caversham, and rescue the unaware duo.

Ms Stoakes said: "I was woken up by firemen and paramedics as my house was full of smoke due to a pan being left on. "When they woke me I thought it was my cat as she usually paws me awake around 6am, so I kept turning away. When I did realise I had no idea if house was still on fire or anything I as couldn't hear until I put my cochlear implant in.” Ms Stoakes' fire alarms were not properly fitted. Luckily, a neighbour had noticed smoke billowing from the semi-detached home and called the emergency services. "The neighbours were banging on the window before they called fire brigade," Ms Stoakes continued. I feel very very lucky as it could have been much worse if it wasn't for them. I would like to raise awareness on deafness and fire safety as people can get caught out anywhere. I once worked in a nursing home and first I knew there was a fire safety exercise was when I saw a fireman in a mirror in the loo- everyone else had been evacuated. There are specialist devices available now but not everyone is aware of these particularly if your not involved in the Deaf community."

A spokesman for Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service said: "As no one was responding when they banged on the door, firefighters had to get inside the house using an extension ladder through a window. In the kitchen they found food had been left cooking on the hob so they removed the pans and switched off the power.  A neighbour dialled 999 to alert firefighters after they smelled burning coming from the house next door. There was a smoke alarm in the property but it had been incorrectly fitted so did not activate. Fortunately the damage was limited to the pan, and mother and daughter were uninjured."

Professor GibsonPlease join us in congratulating Prof on his Australia Day honours award. Prof, who already had been appointed as a Member of the Order of Australia, yesterday was honoured with Officer of the Order of Australia. Congratulations Prof!! Even bigger celebrations now for international Cochlear implant day on Feb 25th.

Emeritus Professor William Peter Gibson of Birchgrove:
 For distinguished service to medicine, particularly in the area of otolaryngology, as a clinician, to the advancement of cochlear implant programs, and to professional medical organisations.


Nov 2017 Pensacola News Journal

Aaron HaleArmy Sgt. Aaron Hale rendered one improvised explosive device safe. He was returning to gather evidence from the first bomb on Dec. 8, 2011 in Afghanistan, when a second undetected device blew. The blast did not cause him to lose consciousness.   "I first thought my helmet was over my face. I started doing a systems check for my fingers and toes and then I tapped on my head and realised my helmet was gone," Hale said. "I knew something was really wrong with my eyes." 

But the veteran military bomb tech and explosive ordnance disposal team leader was more worried about the safety of those around him and whether more undetected pressure-plate IEDs could go off and hurt those trying to help. "I didn't want to put anyone else in danger because there could have been a tertiary device," he said. Just 14 minutes after the blast, he was en route to a Kandahar medical station. Within 24 hours he was at a U.S. military medical hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. A day later, he arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. The blast, which came from his right side, fused his eyelids together, perforated his eardrums and cracked his skull. Spinal fluid was leaking from his nose.  "I began to suspect that my eyesight was lost," Hale said. After multiple surgeries, his suspicions were confirmed. Hale's right eardrum never healed, but he was able to hear out of his left ear. He slowly began to adapt to a life without sight.
"It is not about what you don't have, it's about the tools you do have in your kit — my creativity, my senses, my patience," he said. 

 McKayla TracyMcKayla Tracy left, the wife of Aaron Hale, a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal team leader, describes the couple's journey since Arron lost his hearing from complications to injuries he sustained while serving in Afghanistan 

He eventually returned to Navy's Explosive Ordnance Disposal School at Eglin Air Force Base where he instructed others on how to rid war zones of deadly bombs. His presence at the school was a sobering reminder of the seriousness of the job.  "The first thing we tell (students) is all of the ways any device can hurt them and what can set it off. The first thing I told them about was how this IED got me. It's not something I wanted to be machismo about," he said. 

Hale started rebuilding his physical strength through running, climbing and kayaking. He ran marathons.  He reunited with a longtime family friend who later became his wife. The two started dating.  And then Hale became deathly ill.  He contracted bacterial meningitis likely related to his extensive facial and head injuries. It happened in 2015, four years after the blast that took his sight.  "Through the tons of antibiotics or the bacteria, my hearing was being erased," said Hale, who woke up in the hospital hearing only faint, muffled sounds.  He eventually lost 100 percent of his hearing. 

His then-girlfriend, McKayla, stayed at his side, communicating with him by writing on his palm with her finger.  She moved into his Destin-area home and helped him negotiate life without his hearing or sight.  Doctors thought Hale was a good candidate for a cochlear implant system to allow him to regain hearing.  But Hale had to wait for his body to heal before he could undergo the implant surgery.  "It was an extremely sad time. For six months he was deaf and blind," McKayla said.

Hale didn't start his military career as an EOD technician, he was a Navy chef. Cooking was a longtime passion and he was good at it. He cooked for admirals and for entire chow halls. 
He got interested in the EOD field while working as a Navy cook during his first deployment to Afghanistan after meeting EOD technicians at the chow hall. He asked the Navy to change career fields. "They said my cooking was too good and they wouldn't let me go," he said laughing.

He finished his contract with Navy and joined the Army where he entered the EOD program, one of the military's most challenging career fields with one of the highest washout rates.  Cooking and bomb disposal actually have a lot of similarities, he said. Both require attention to detail and a need to improvise. 

During the six months Hale was without his hearing and sight, he turned to cooking as therapy. But he couldn't use the tools he had used before he lost his hearing. He had a scan and bar-code system that helped him to identify items in the kitchen when he could hear.  Without his hearing, he turned to McKayla and their palm writing form of communication to help him move around the kitchen. It was during the holidays.  "I was sitting at the kitchen bar with literally nothing to do. I was in a wheelchair because I had lost my balance. I couldn't use my home gym. I was trapped in my own body," he said.  "I started thinking, when will I have paid my dues enough.” And then he started cooking.  "It was something I could still do. I started making fudge. I made so much fudge. It was something that gave me purpose, something I enjoyed doing," he said.

fudgeAaron Hale, a former Explosive Ordnance Disposal team leader, injured during the war in Afghanistan has turned his attention to the candy business with EOD (Extra Ordinary Delights) Fudge. Hale is selling his handmade confections online at WWW.eodfudge.com 

He made other holiday desserts, even the Thanksgiving turkey.  McKayla started giving the fudge and other candy to friends, family and people in the neighbourhood. They started a small home business selling the fudge.  It gave Aaron a purpose and distraction, McKayla said.  Through a small grant from a veteran's program, they built their business. Aaron came up with the candy recipes in his test kitchen and another company produced and packaged the candy and sold it online. 

In the meantime, doctors implanted the cochlear devices. Aaron waited for the devices to be turned on to find out if he would ever be able to hear again.  "I knew anything was better than being completely deaf and completely blind, I wanted to try it," he said.  The damage to his right ear was too extensive and the implant didn't work, but he regained some hearing in his left ear.  He uses a Bluetooth device that connects to a microphone to help him hear. The device also connects to his iPhone, which reads text messages and emails for him.  McKayla has her own microphone to communicate with her husband from anywhere in the house.  Aaron jokes that she is "the voice in my head.” "I can be anywhere and she will start talking to me, even in the bathroom," he laughed. 

Like anything in life, the key to learning the implant system was learning to adapt and make use of his available assets, he said. Despite the hurdles he has had to climb, Hale, who is now retired from the military, said he "has no regrets" about his decision to become a military bomb technician.  It is a dangerous but necessary job, he said.  "I hope one day we can get to a place where we don't have to be right on top of the devices, but right now there is nothing sophisticated enough. Right now, there is nothing compared to a well-trained EOD team leader," he said.


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