Prof Graeme M. Clark AC

Laureate Professor and Member of The Graeme Clark Institute for Biomedical Engineering, The University of Melbourne

Professor Graeme Clark’s discoveries led to the first multi-channel cochlear implant to bring hearing and speech effectively and safely to severely and profoundly deaf children.

In addition it is the first:

  • Sensory-neural prosthesis to effectively and safely bring electronic technology into a direct physiological relation with the central nervous system and human consciousness
  • Cochlear implant (“Bionic Ear”) to be used clinically to give speech understanding to profoundly deaf people and spoken language to children born deaf
  • Implant to be shown to be safe with no greater risk of meningitis than in the general community, provided care is taken to prevent postoperative infection, and manage those with high risk factors

When developed industrially by the Australian firm Cochlear Ltd the multi-channel cochlear implant has brought hearing and speech understanding to some hundreds of thousands of severely-to-profoundly deaf people in more than 100 countries. The implants have also made it possible for children born deaf to develop speech and language enabling them to communicate effectively in a world of sound.

His achievements were not previously thought possible as the cochlea is innervated by 10,000 to 20,000 neurons in a complex manner.

It was therefore considered by many that it would be impossible to provide speech understanding with a limited number of electrodes.

Since commencing research on electrical stimulation of the auditory pathways in 1967, Clark systematically undertook the basic and clinical research to bring about his discovery.

It has also provided important  insights into brain function.