2012 ATSE Clunies Ross Award: Professor Peter Blamey, Hearing Technology
Professor Peter Blamey has worked on cochlear implants, hearing aids, and the development of spoken language in children with impaired hearing since 1979, when he joined Professor Graeme Clark’s team at The University of Melbourne. The first patient had just been implanted with a prototype device in Melbourne and Peter’s role was to investigate the hearing sensations produced by electrical stimulation of the hearing nerve. Later, as an NHMRC Research Fellow, he showed that children born deaf could acquire spoken language in a normal manner with a cochlear implant, and the implant produced by Cochlear Limited has had a major social impact on the lives of about 100,000 deaf children globally. Peter is a co-inventor on more than 20 patent families, most of which have been used in cochlear implants, hearing aids, and/or headset products. The financial burden of hearing loss in Australia has been estimated at $11.9 billion per year and only about 20 per cent of people who would benefit are using hearing aids. Blamey & Saunders Hearing Pty Ltd is using Peter’s new technologies and a new business approach to tackle these problems with a hearing aid that can be adjusted by the wearer, lowering the price of state-of-the-art hearing aids by a factor of three, thus enabling more people to improve their quality of life. As Deputy Director (IP and Commercialisation) at the Bionics Institute, Peter is helping develop and commercialise a Bionic Eye, devices for deep brain stimulation and other bionic devices for chronic medical conditions.