San Fernando Valley Business Journal

Developer of Cochlear Implant Dies

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dr. William F. House, an ear specialist who helped develop and promote a radically new hearing aid technology commercialized by Valencia’s Advanced Bionics and other companies, has died. He was 89.

Work on the cochlear implant, which involved implanting an electronic device in the inner ear where it directly stimulated the auditory nerve, was done at the House Ear Institute in Los Angeles. The center was led by House in the 1980s and founded by his brother Howard House in 1946.

House promoted the implant for decades, and when it was approved in 1984 by the Food and Drug Administration it was regarded as the first replacement of a human sense organ. Rush Limbaugh was the recipient of a more advanced version of the device in 2001.

Advanced Bionics, founded in 1993 by Alfred Mann, is a leading manufacturer of cochlear implants. The company was acquired by Boston Scientific in 2004 for $740 million, but was later sold back to Mann. In 2009 Advanced Bionics was purchased by Swiss hearing aid manufacturer Sonova Holding AG for $489 million.

House, who was trained as a dentist, began work in the 1950s on the cochlear implant after initial experiments were done in Europe. The original device required the user to carry a microphone with a wire that was implanted in the inner ear, or cochlear.

The FDA estimates that more than 200,000 patients worldwide have received cochlear implants.

House, who suffered from cancer, died Friday at his home in Aurora, Ore.