Millions of Americans suffer from hearing loss or are deaf. A good majority of these people struggle to hear or make out words despite the use of a commercial hearing aid. If you are one of these people who uses hearing aids and still strains to understand, consider discussing a cochlear implant as a viable option.

What Are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are two-part systems that consist of an implanted electronic device that electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve and an external transmitter. The external portion sits just behind the ear and picks up sound with a microphone. It then transmits that sound to the internal device and allows patients to hear. Although normal hearing is not restored, the cochlear implant offers an increased awareness of sounds and improvement in the ability to understand speech. Most people with a cochlear implant stated they had improvement in hearing and understanding people talking, television, and phone conversations.

Are Cochlear Implants Right For Me?

Cochlear implants are for those who suffer severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. In this type of hearing loss, the inner ear is damaged so distinguishing sounds is difficult and detecting sounds properly is an issue. The cochlear implant bypasses the damage and sends electric signals directly to the brain. The cochlear implant may not work for all types of hearing loss, but is ideal for patients who suffer from hearing loss and have successfully used hearing aids. If hearing aids are no longer effective, talk to your audiologist about whether or not cochlear implants are a good choice for you. Cochlear implants are ideal for patients who:

  • Have severe to profound hearing loss
  • Experienced gradual hearing loss
  • Successfully used hearing aids
  • Were born with a sensorineural disorder or deaf
  • Have hearing with poor clarity
  • Miss more than half of spoken words, even with the use of hearing aids.

For some people, a partial cochlear implant used in conjunction with a hearing aid can help preserve hearing and support sound clarity. In severe cases, a fully implanted cochlear implant is required to reach desired results. To determine whether a cochlear implant is the best choice for you, your audiologist will evaluate you on hearing, speech, and balance, and assess the health of your inner ear to determine if it will help. You may have to have a CT or MRI of the head to observe your hearing structures. For some children born with hearing loss, an evaluation may be conducted to determine whether or not a developmental disorder may affect the ability to effectively use the implants.

What Happens Once the Cochlear Implant Is Implanted?

To implant the device, there is a small surgical procedure completed behind your ear. In some cases, the procedure is completed in a same-day setting, or some patients may be required to stay the night for observation. For the next two to six weeks, the surgical site will be left to heal without the device being activated. Once the surgical site is healed, your audiologist will make adjustments, ensure the device is working, and set the device to your needs. After the device is activated, you’ll need to undergo rehabilitation to train your brain how to understand the sounds.

If you are interested in a cochlear implant device, talk to your audiologist at Alpine ENT today.