MED-EL Cochlear Implant Pioneers to Receive Coveted Eduard Rhein Foundation Prize for Technology

Oct 8, 2016

MED-EL founders recognised for outstanding achievement in the research, development and commercialisation of the modern cochlear implant

October 08 2016 – The Eduard Rhein Foundation has announced today that it has awarded this year’s technology prize to MED-EL’s co-founders Dr Ingeborg Hochmair (MED-EL CEO) and Professor Erwin Hochmair for the development and commercialisation of the world’s first multi-channel microelectronic cochlear implant. Their esteemed colleague and MED-EL advisor Professor Blake Wilson was also recognised for his research and development of an auditory coding strategy for cochlear implants named “Continuous Interleaved Sampling” (CIS) in the late 1980’s, which dramatically improved speech recognition without visual cues.

“For a long time, deafness and hearing loss were believed to be conditions that could not be treated or cured. Our winners of this year´s technology award were true pioneers and played an important role in the development and introduction of the first multi-channel microelectronic cochlear implant over 40 years ago,” commented Professor Steffen Leonhardt, RWTH Aarhen and member of the Eduard Rhein Foundation board of curators. “The introduction of a device that restores hearing was a significant breakthrough in improving the quality of life of the many thousands of people living with a hearing impairment worldwide.”

The cochlear implant was and remains the first replacement of a human sense: the sense of hearing. Thanks to the vision, expertise and dedication of the MED-EL founders, their colleagues and many others over 500,000 people living with severe hearing loss have received a cochlear implant to date. Today the Hochmairs and Professor Wilson continue to collaborate on new research and MED-EL maintains the widest range of hearing implant systems worldwide. The Hochmairs’ early cochlear implant discoveries have led to the development of new technologies to treat hearing loss with smaller, better implant systems indicated for all ages and now even used in combination with acoustic amplification, implanted bilaterally and CE-marked for single-sided deafness and asymmetric hearing loss. 

“We are immensely proud to be recognised by the Eduard Rhein Foundation,” said Dr Ingeborg Hochmair, co-founder and CEO of MED-EL. “Opening the world of sound to people who live in silence is what has been driving us from the start as individuals and as a company. Helping people to overcome hearing loss, learn how to speak, understand language and appreciate music is an achievable goal and life changing gift.” 

While the adoption of cochlear implants continues to expand around the world, there remains a great need for improved awareness of hearing loss and the advanced technology available to people living with the condition. 

“Currently it is estimated that about 25 in a million people receive a cochlear implant each year in Central Europe,” said Professor Erwin Hochmair. “However this is still fewer than 10% of the people living with severe hearing loss who could benefit from cochlear implants, so our mission continues. We hope such prestigious recognition of our work and technology encourages decision makers to recognise the importance of this technology and to make it available to more people worldwide.”

Since its founding, MED-EL has continuously invested in research, design and development. Today MED-EL invests 15-20% of its turnover in R&D. 
New standards, innovations, industry and world “firsts” demonstrate the continued commitment of its founders and the 1,700 dedicated experts working at the company. Some of the most exciting innovations include EAS technology (Electric Acoustic Stimulation), which can significantly improve the quality of life for people with partial deafness; the thinnest cochlear implant with titanium housing available on the market; the most sophisticated sound coding technologies (Fine Hearing™), which provide the fine details of sound; the soft, flexible electrode arrays designed for the most atraumatic insertion into the cochlea with maximum protection of the delicate structures of the inner ear and, last but not least BONEBRIDGE, the first active bone conduction implant. 
The key to MED-EL’s success in research and innovation is the close and interdisciplinary collaboration between highly qualified researchers and developers. Furthermore, MED-EL participates in numerous EU and other research programmes and fosters applied research activities via cooperation projects with more than 100 research institutions worldwide. 
MED-EL currently offers the widest range of hearing implant systems distinguished by performance, ease of use and reliability. The product systems meet the special needs of individuals affected by various types of hearing loss.

About the Eduard Rhein Foundation and awards

The Eduard Rhein Foundation is the largest European foundation for information technology and was founded in 1976 in Hamburg, Germany by Eduard Rhein. The goal of the foundation is to promote scientific research, learning, arts, and culture through monetary awards. The Eduard Rhein Foundation is an academically and politically independent, non-profit foundation. Its exclusive interest is to grant awards to individuals for outstanding achievements in research and/or development promoting the public welfare. The Eduard Rhein Award is the largest technology award of its kind in Europe.

For more information about the Eduard Rhein Foundation and award visit

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