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Cochlear Kanso - December 2017

Interview with Colin Irwin, Manager of Collaborative Studies, Cochlear Americas

Colin Irwin

December 1, 2008

Topic: The Convergence of Cochlear Implant & Hearing Aid Technology Workshop January 14 - 15, 2009 - Miami Beach, FL
CAROLYN SMAKA: This is Carolyn Smaka from AudiologyOnline and I'm speaking with Colin Irwin from Cochlear. Colin, thanks for your time today.

COLIN IRWIN: Thank you very much, it's my pleasure.

SMAKA: We're talking about an exciting conference that Cochlear is hosting in January. Before we get started, can you tell me about your background and your role at Cochlear?

IRWIN: Yes, I've worked for Cochlear for about ten years now in a few different locations. I started in Sydney, Australia, which is the head office for Cochlear. I also worked in the European head office in Switzerland, and now I'm here in Denver with Cochlear Americas. My background is in electrical engineering and computer science. I sort of fell into the cochlear implant and hearing aid world because of the work experience route that I took after getting my degree in Sydney.

Presently, I am the manager of collaborative studies for Cochlear Americas. Cochlear Americas covers not only the U.S., but also Canada and the Latin American and South American countries. My team and I manage all the research studies done collaboratively with research institutes, universities and the like. These are studies that are conducted not for the regulatory approval process for products, but rather, those that are done to investigate new technology areas and to look at research areas of interest within the industry.

SMAKA: You mentioned that you work in collaborative research, which is the perfect segue to talk about this workshop as it's a collaboration with the University of Miami.

IRWIN: Yes, we have a couple of collaborative projects with the University of Miami, most notably with Dr. David Fabry, in the areas of input processing and auditory scene analysis. His goals and experience are really contributing to that project. They're one of our important research partners.

The workshop is entitled "The Convergence of Cochlear Implant (CI) & Hearing Aid (HA) Technology" and we're hosting it in conjunction with the University of Miami. It's the second in a series of workshops that Cochlear Americas has started. The first was the Music Workshop that was held in conjunction with the University of Washington back in October 2006. The Convergence workshop is looking at an important and very prominent area at the moment, which is where the technology is going for cochlear implants, where it's going for hearing aids, and where it's going for all manners of hearing devices. The workshop is divided into approximately six different topic areas, the first of which is signal processing. There is a lot of work being done both within Cochlear as well as externally on cochlear implant signal processing. It goes without saying that there's also a lot of work that's being done and that has been done on signal processing in the hearing aid world. Previously, cochlear implant and hearing aid technologies could have been seen as being a bit separated, but increasingly we're seeing them come together. Thus the title of this workshop regarding the convergence of these technologies.

So the topic of signal processing is fairly obvious from the title of the workshop, but many other topic areas will be covered. Bimodal stimulation, or the use of combined electrical and acoustical stimulation in one ear or in both ears, will be discussed as well as the issue of hybrids. Hybrids represent the ultimate convergence in cochlear implant and hearing aid technology. Hybrids are specialized cochlear implants particular for certain hearing types of hearing loss, whereby you have low frequencies being delivered by acoustic stimulation and high frequencies being delivered via electrical stimulation. There will also be sessions on bone conduction hearing aids, as well as on performance metrics. Increasingly, we're seeing how you might be able to prove something regarding performance in the lab that is not so in the real world. We need to look at how best to measure performance from an engineering point of view, an acoustic point of view, and from a practical point of view. And of course we'll also be covering current issues in rehabilitation, as well as other topics.

SMAKA: It sounds quite comprehensive. What is the overall goal or objective of the workshop?

IRWIN: The goal from our point of view is two-fold. One is to provide leadership in the industry with regard to looking at the various technologies and determining what is important to cochlear implant recipients, what is important to hearing aid users, and what is important to hybrid users. The second goal is to define a two to three year outlook for the research and technology development in the field. Where do we have to go, what areas might the hearing aid companies and research institutes have already covered, and what should be covered in the next few years.

SMAKA: Who are the presenters?

IRWIN: Dr. David Fabry from the University of Miami will be giving the keynote speech on moving from acoustic scene analysis to auditory scene analysis. We also have a full speaker line up including: Professor DeLiang Wang from Ohio State;Professor Philip Loizou from the University of Texas - Dallas;Professor Richard Tyler from the University of Iowa;and the list goes on. From overseas, they'll be researchers from the Catholic University of Leuven, who have been doing a lot of research in bilateral or binaural noise reduction algorithms and will be presenting their latest research findings. We also have some internal researchers from Cochlear. Dr. Christopher Long who is now based on Denver will be discussing how to simulate and improve the performance in hearing aid and cochlear implant users. Dr. Aaron Parkinson will be giving an overview of hybrids and talking about the future in that area. There are several other speakers and topics as well.

SMAKA: This is a two day workshop, correct?

IRWIN: That's correct. It will be held January 14 - January 15, 2009.

The format of the workshop is meant to be more informal and is intended to invoke discussion and participation from everyone in attendance. So the format is intended to include a presentation on a certain topic, then include sufficient question and discussion time in order to involve participation from the audience. After all, we recognize that good ideas don't only come from certain people. There will also be a panel discussion at the end of each day to cover more of what was discussed in that particular day.

SMAKA: We should mention the perfect locale that you picked for this January workshop.

IRWIN: I have to admit, that although I'm not from the U.S., I can appreciate that Miami in January is quite a nice place to be. The workshop will be held at the newly renovated Eden Roc Beach Resort and Spa that is located right on Miami Beach.

Eden Roc Beach Resort & Spa

SMAKA: Nice! Are you planning to offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs)?

IRWIN: Yes, we're submitting the AAA and ASHA paperwork right now.

SMAKA: Who is the intended audience then, audiologists?

IRWIN: From our point of view, the intended audience is professionals who are interested in what's happening in the industry and those that feel they could help to shape the direction of the industry. That may include surgeons, audiologists, researchers, engineers and other hearing professionals.

With regard to attendance, there is no registration fee for this conference. Participants would of course pay their own transportation and accommodation, but there is no registration fee.

SMAKA: That's great. This looks like the cochlear implant conference for next year.

IRWIN: We hope so. Marketing materials such as save the date postcards and other informational pieces are being sent out now. We're managing registration through a RegOnline site, which is

SMAKA: It is also listed in our Calendar of Events on AudiologyOnline,
We wish you a really successful conference. Thanks so much, Colin.

IRWIN: Thank you for having me.
2019 NIHL Series | 4 advanced-level live webinars | June 5, 12, 19, + 26 | 12:00 pm EDT | Guest Editor: Brian J. Fligor, ScD, PA

Colin Irwin

Manager of Collaborative Studies, Cochlear Americas