Office of Technology Transfer – University of Michigan

Fully Implantable MEMS-based Piezoelectric Cochlear Implant with Flexible Spring-mass Design

Technology #6090

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Katherine Elizabeth Knisely
Managed By
Bryce Pilz
Director Licensing 734-615-8433
Patent Protection
US Patent Pending
A MEMS AIN transducer array for use as a cochlear implant
Nanotechnology and Integrated Microsystems Student Association, 2013

The FDA has reported that at the end of December in 2012, more than 324,000 people worldwide had received cochlear implants (CIs), and this number is expected to grow in coming years due to hearing loss in the aging population. The global market for hearing implants was valued at $960M in 2010 and is expected to grow to $2.3B by 2017. Cochlear implants transduce vibrations in the ear into electrical impulses which are sent to the brain, allowing patients the sensation of hearing and the ability to more easily interact with others and their surroundings. While CIs are invaluable to individuals with sensorineural hearing loss, current CIs are costly and suffer from high power consumption, high latency and are physically unwieldy.

A Fully Implantable Solution

A completely implantable CI would allow users to engage in activities like swimming, sports and showering without worrying about their CI, but issues related to battery-life, cost and implantation have kept them from becoming a reality. By incorporating a MEMS-fabricated mass-spring flexible probe with a cantilever array of piezoelectric sensors to locally transduce and amplify the cochlear vibrational energy, this technology introduces a fully implantable low-power CI that can be manufactured using a cost efficient process. Additionally the device, which performs sensing in the inner ear, is low latency and has low power requirements so that it can be used with vibrational energy harvesters. The fully internal cochlear implant has the potential to change the lives of thousands worldwide.


  • Cochlear implant electrode arrays
  • Fully implantable cochlear implants


  • Completely internal CI allows for active and full lifestyle
  • Low power requirement compared to current CIs
  • Low latency
  • Scalable MEMS manufacturing lowers cost and makes modifications for individual user simple