A cochlear implant (CI) is a medical hearing device made to serve a specific subset of the hearing impaired population. For those with sensorineural hearing loss who no longer can benefit from traditional hearing aids, a CI may be in order. Fitting medium range of hearing losses, from moderate-to-profound, with a greater emphasis on those with more profound losses, a CI helps those with little to no hearing experience listen again!
There are two basic portions of a CI: the implant and the external sound processor. The implant portion is surgically implanted behind the ear under the skin and into the organ of hearing (cochlea) in the inner ear. This portion takes place of the damage inner ear sensory cells by electrically stimulating hearing nerves. The external speech processor is made up of a microphone, speaker, and transmitter. This portion picks up the sound signals, processes them as they are programmed, and transmits the signal to the implanted portion.
CIs are not hearing aids and do not work in the same manner. Hearing aids are amplification devices that make the sounds louder in a user specific way. CIs take on the role of the damaged inner ear. Therefore, sound may be perceived differently with a CI. Each patient’s outcome will be unique, and results may vary from sound awareness to total comprehension, even over the telephone. Therapy may be needed to retrain the brain to understand these new sounds.
There are very specific evaluations to determine cochlear implant candidacy. If you or a family member is considering a CI, contact your hearing healthcare professional, physician, or ENT today! They will guide you through the steps toward your own cochlear implant.