What is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device which helps to restore the sense of hearing for individuals with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss.
The cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing; instead, it can provide the hearing impaired with a useful representation of environmental sounds to help him or her understand speech.
A cochlear implant may be recommended to people with this type of hearing losses if hearing aids provide little or no benefits.
How does a Cochlear implant work?
An Implant works by bypassing non-functioning parts of the inner ear (Cochlea) and providing electrical stimulation directly to auditory nerve fibres in the cochlea.
A Cochlear implant consists of two parts: an externally worn audio processor, which sits behind or over the ear, and an internal cochlear implant, which is surgically placed under the skin. Here is the process:
- The audio processor captures sounds and turns them into digital codes.
- These digital codes are transmitted to the internal implant through the coil, which is placed outside of the head.
- The implant converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed inside the inner ear.
- These electrodes stimulate the cochlear nerve, which then transmits the electrical signals to the brain where they are interpreted as sounds.
The entire cochlear implant system is powered by the battery inside the audio processor.
Possible Benefits of a Cochlear Implant
- Speech and language development in children implanted at an early age
- Improved communication in most listening situations
- Increased confidence in social situations and in the workplace
- Improved hearing from distances
- A better appreciation of music
Who Can Benefit from a Cochlear Implant?
Both adults and children with severe to profound hearing loss who are not able to gain adequate hearing from conventional hearing aids may benefit from a cochlear implant.
Do you think you or a family member may be a candidate for a cochlear implant?
The first step is to arrange an appointment with your audiologist for a hearing assessment. Your audiologist should be able to advise you on the next steps according to:
- your hearing test results,
- your past history of hearing aid use, and
- the level of benefits you can potentially receive from hearing aids.