Cochlear implant development in Vienna started by Ingeborg and Erwin Hochmair at the Technical University in Vienna.


The world's first microelectronic multi-channel cochlear implant in Vienna. It had 8 channels, a stimulation rate of 10.000 pulses per second per channel and 8 independent current sources and a flexible electrode for 22-25mm insertion into the cochlea.

Prof. Kurt Burian (1924-1996)
Implanted the first multichannel microelectronic cochlear implant at the ENT-University clinic in Vienna on Dec 16th 1977. He inserted the flexible electrode through the round window into the scala tympani.


6- and 4-channel implant variants
The 4-channel implant was used for simultaneous stimulation.


C.K., received a 4-channel implant in August 1979 and a small portable processor a few weeks later. She spent many hours in the test lab at the Technical University in Vienna where a number of speech coding strategies and stimulation field configurations were tested for fundamental research on nerve stimulation.

Fitting of the speech processor to the characteristics of the patient's electrical hearing in terms of frequency shaping and amplitude compression turned out be essential for the quality of speech understanding (Erwin Hochmair and a patient).

Many speech perception tests were performed to optimize the settings (Ingeborg Hochmair and patient S.O.).


In fall of 1979 C.K. received this small body worn speech processor. It was modified in March 1980 at which time C.K. became the first person to show open set speech understanding without lip-reading using a portable processor. She is enjoying sound-only speech understanding from a portable processor since then.


This Cochlear Implant System consists of a signal-transparent 4-channel implant driving a long intra-cochlear 4-channel flexible electrode and a small single-channel speech processor. The system implements a broadband analog speech coding strategy to be used on the best-suited channel.


Implant users exchange their experience in Vienna.

Results from implanted post-lingually deaf adults show that 60% of them have some sound-only speech understanding (without lip reading).


The Hochmairs and their startup company MED-EL move to Innsbruck.


Introduction of the Comfort CI System: The new implant electronics and coils are now encased in one (2-channel system) or two (4-channel system) hermetically sealed ceramic housings. The new speech processor features an ear-level microphone.

Over the years around 700 adults and children received this system, including the early  variant with pacemaker epoxy encapsulation.

The majority of these recipients are now using contemporary implants and enjoy further improved speech understanding.


MED-EL hires its first employees


MED-EL launches the world's first BTE (behind the ear) speech processor. It provides the same speech understanding as the body worn speech processor.

M.H. is the first to receive an implant that combines analog and pulsatile stimulation.


The implant system COMBI 40 is launched. It is the world´s first multichannel high rate CI, an 8-channel system designed to faithfully implement Blake Wilson´s CIS speech coding strategy with high stimulation rate.

It comprises a 31 mm long flexible electrode for coverage of the entire length of the cochlea.


Multicenter study results with the implant COMBI 40 in post-lingually deaf adults demonstrate for the first time that more than half of the patient population reached a monosyllabic word understanding higher than 50% after (only) 6 months. This means that these patients can talk to someone unknown to them about an unknown topic over the telephone. a) sentence understanding, b) monosyllabic word understanding.

The CIS PRO+ processor is introduced.


Out of humanitarian reasons an addition to the CIS PRO+, the CIS LINK system, is developed to provide the CIS strategy to Ineraid recipients who had received percutaneous plug CI systems by another company which discontinued further development.


Introduction of the COMBI 40+, the thinnest Cochlear Implant available. It provides up to 50.000 pulses per second.

Miniaturised multichannel implant (4 mm thin).

Bilateral implantation for the purpose of binaural hearing (with both ears) is started by Profs. Jan Helms and Joachim Müller at the University of Würzburg using MED-EL implants.



Introduction of the COMBI 40+ with split electrode for cases of cochlear ossification; based on a suggestion by Swedish surgeon Goran Bredberg.


Profs. Jan Helms and Joachim Müller start with bilateral Cochlear implantation in children. M.R. becomes the world's first bilaterally implanted child when his second ear is implanted at the age of 4 in 1998 (his first ear was implanted in 1996).


Launch of the TEMPO+ Behind-the-Ear (BTE) Speech Processor.

It consumes 90% less power than the body worn processor.

A multicenter study demonstrates speech perception results superior to the body worn processor.

The TEMPO+ is the first processor to have a modular design allowing different wearing options.

Modular BTE processor design makes the body-worn processor obsolete.


Acquisition of Vibrant Soundbridge, the first active middle ear implant system for mild-to-severe sensorineural hearing loss.

Geoffrey Ball, the inventor of the Vibrant Soundbridge, moves to Innsbruck and becomes the CTO of Vibrant MED-EL.


Launch of the PULSAR Cochlear Implant, providing future-ready electronics in an optimised ceramic housing.


Introduction of the DUET Speech Processor, the world's first processor to integrate cochlear implant speech processing and acoustic stimulation in one compact device.

The EAS System is the world's first hearing implant system for combined acoustic and electric stimulation. Electric acoustic stimulation (EAS) is  a concept that was started by Prof. Christoph von Ilberg with his first EAS patient successfully implanted in 2000.


Launch of the OPUS family of audio processors. Introduction of the SONATA Cochlear Implant which features an especially small titanium housing.

The first switch-free processor design featuring an easy to use remote control.

Introduction of the FLEX series of electrodes. These electrodes are especially designed for preserving the delicate cochlear structures during implantation.

FineHearing™ technology providing the fine structure information of sound.


FLEX EAS electrode CE-marked approved for treatment of partial deafness.

Launch of the DaCapo Rechargeable Battery System.


Vibrant Soundbridge® Middle Ear Implant System CE-marked for the expanded indication of  conductive and mixed hearing loss after surgeon Vittorio Colletti started with placement of the transducer in the round window in 2006.


EAS in the 2nd generation. European launch of the DUET 2 Audio Processor.

Vibrant Soundbridge Middle Ear Implant System: indication for children CE-marked.

Amadé, the new audioprocessor of the Vibrant Soundbridge is introduced in Europe.


The new MAESTRO Cochlear Implant System is introduced.

The MAESTRO CI System includes the CONCERTO Cochlear Implant, the thinnest implant with titanium housing.

The CONCERTO implant is provided with optional pins for easier fixation.

The MAESTRO System Software 4.0 featuring the new FS4 and FS4-p coding strategies.


Introduction of new couplers for the Vibrant Soundbridge MEI System.

The long FLEX 28 Electrode Array is introduced to provide stimulation of a maximum number of nerve fibers for the best possible hearing experience.

Introduction of the CONCERTO ABI (Auditory Brainstem Implant).

Introduction of the Mini Battery Pack for the OPUS 2, a new body worn option powered by standard AAA batteries or the DaCapo rechargeable battery.


Introduction of the BONEBRIDGE, the world's first active bone conduction implant system.

Launch of the new OPUS 2XS Battery Pack which makes the OPUS2 the smallest and lightest BTE Processor.


Revolutionary All-in-One design: fewer parts, no cable, and a feeling of freedom from wearing nothing behind the ear: The RONDO is launched

Introduction of FORM electrode arrays. They are designed to overcome the technical difficulties associated with fluid leakage common in cases of incomplete partition and hypoplasia.

MED-EL's Cochlear Implant systems are CE-marked for the indication of single sided deafness (SSD) for adults and children.

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