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86/12 Cochlear implant, speech processor and headset microphone, metal / plastic / electronic components, Nucleus Ltd, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia, 1983. Click to enlarge.

Cochlear implant and accessories made by Nucleus Ltd

Made by Nucleus Ltd in Lane Cove, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1983.
Cochlear Limited was founded in Australia in 1981, based on Australian research by Dr Graeme Clark in developing the cochlear implant or bionic ear, an Australian innovation. By 2006 it had become an international leader in the manufacture and sale of cochlear implant systems.

This item is the first commercial model of a speech processor produced by Cochlear Limited. It was designed for use with the Nucleus 22 implant developed in 1983 which, in 1985, was the first multi-channel implant and speech processor system to receive approval for use by the US Food and Drug Administration.

This speech processor is the first of a number of generations of devices produced by Cochlear with continual improvements in sound processing and reduction in size. It represents Cochlear's design strategy of making a flexible cochlear implant with sophisticated sound processing in the externally worn speech processor, allowing the recipient to take advantage of improvements in technology without surgically replacing their implanted device.

Angelique Hutchison


Object No.


Object Statement

Cochlear implant, speech processor and headset microphone, metal / plastic / electronic components, Nucleus Ltd, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia, 1983

Physical Description

Cochlear implant kit in three parts. The Cochlear implant which is a metal disc with a silicon tail. The speech processor which is a rectangular silver metal and dark blue plastic box with control knobs at the top. The headset microphone which is made with two black prongs that are shaped to sit in a band across the head and end in a microphone with a cable and plug. The speech processor is packed in a blue plush presentation container. The speech processor is packed in a plastic press seal bag. The microphone headset is packed in cardboard and plastic boxes. A soft covered paper manual is included in this box.


The cochlear implant is engraved "NUCLEUS / AUSTRALIA / CS 01100".The speech processor is printed on the front with the world "NUCLEUS"



35 mm


11 mm


600 g



This is an example of the first commercial version of the cochlear implant and speech processor developed by Nucleus, later known as Cochlear. This type of device was first implanted in September 1982 in Melbourne as part of an Australian clinical trial. Worldwide trials followed and the device was given the US FDA approval in October 1985. It was the first multiple electrode cochlear implant to be approved for clinical use by any health regulatory body. It was later approved for us in Japan, Europe and the UK.

The speech processor is the first wearable speech processor developed by Nucleus.

Key Organisations
Cochlear Pty Ltd : R&D, design, manufacture
University of Melbourne : R&D

Nucleus Ltd : commercialised first implant
Key People
Graeme Clark : innovator, team leader
Paul Trainor : manufacturer
Reginald Ansett : Channel 10 owner (telethon)

Further Reading
The story of the bionic ear
J Epstein
Hyland House, Melbourne, 1989.

Sounds from silence: Graeme Clark and the bionic ear story
Graeme Clark
Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, 2000



Some great ideas need enormous commitment and cooperation to bring them to fruition. Graeme Clark's father was a deaf man in a hearing family and society. He was a pharmacist and often had to ask his customers to 'speak up' about their medical problems - which embarrassed him and them.

In 1967 Graeme embarked on a long journey towards fulfilling his dream of helping deaf people 'hear' the spoken word again. For ten years his research into electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve via an implant into the cochlea (a structure in the inner ear shaped like a snail shell) struggled along on animal experiments and university grant funding.

In 1974 a telethon on Channel 10 in Melbourne generated enough funds to take his work to the prototype stage and test it in a human patient, Rod Saunders. The 'bionic ear' worked: Rod could perceive sound again.

This demonstration encouraged the Australian government to finance commercialisation of the 'bionic ear'. The financing of the cochlear implant's manufacture and marketing became a remarkably successful joint venture. The three-way partnership was between researchers at the University of Melbourne, the federal government and a medical equipment exporter called Nucleus. This partnership led to the formation of a string of Cochlear enterprises in the US, Japan and Switzerland including Cochlear Pty Ltd in Australia.

The Nucleus® 22, introduced in 1983, was the first use of a 22-channel implant. This allows the user to distinguish a wide range of sound frequencies and is the world's most widely used cochlear implant system. By the early 1990s Cochlear Pty Ltd was making a profit and Professor Clark was earning royalties.

In 1994, after 5 years of lobbying, the implant was approved by Japanese health insurance companies, opening up a market of up to 50 000 profoundly deaf people.

Nucleus® 24 Contour, introduced in 1999, uses a pre-curved electrode. The electrode is made with the curved shape of the cochlea, improving the sound quality and simplifying surgery. Its speech processor incorporates the microphone and processor behind the ear, eliminated unnecessary wires. It won an Australian Design Award™ in 2000.

By the end of the century there were over 24 000 Nucleus users in 50 countries worldwide, and the total time that all Nucleus systems had been in use was over 142 000 years (Nucleus implant years).

More information
Cochlear implant, HSC Technology Syllabus Support website, NSW Department of Education and Training / Powerhouse Museum, 2001


Credit Line

Purchased 1986

Acquisition Date

6 January 1986

Cite this Object


Cochlear implant and accessories made by Nucleus Ltd 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 12 August 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Cochlear implant and accessories made by Nucleus Ltd |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=12 August 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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