Who Could Benefit From Cochlear Implants?

For those with severe or profound hearing loss that can’t be corrected with traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants might be a viable solution.

Cochlear implant device for deaf or hearing impaired people

What Are Cochlear Implants?

Your cochlea helps your ears and brain to communicate with each other. In some cases, however, your cochlea is so damaged that communication is impossible. A cochlear implant allows sound to bypass your damaged cochlea entirely so that sound information still gets to your brain. This is different from hearing aids, which make sounds louder so your healthy cochlea can do its job better.


How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

A cochlear implant has an external and internal component.

  • A processor, which rests behind your ear like a hearing aid, collects sounds and turns it into digital data.
  • The data is sent along a wire to a tiny disk, which sits against the side of your head in a position that is a little above and behind your ear.
  • The disk wirelessly transmits the data to a second disk implanted just under your skin, opposite the first disk.
  • The second disk uses the data to create electric impulses.
  • These impulses are collected by a set of implanted electrodes, which stimulate your hearing nerve.
  • The hearing nerve carries the impulses to your brain, where they’re interpreted as sound.


What Are the Benefits of Cochlear Implants?

The majority of those who use cochlear implants experience a significant improvement in their hearing. For example, their ability to comprehend sentences increases by 80 percent. Additional benefits include:

  • Communicating better in loud environments
  • Hearing and speaking on the phone
  • Holding conversations in loud places
  • Enjoying music
  • Hearing sirens, alarms, and vehicles


What Is the Cochlear Implant Process?

The surgical insertion of the implant happens first. Depending on your specific circumstances, it could be an outpatient procedure, or you might have to stay overnight at the hospital. About a week after the procedure, you’ll return to get your healing progress assessed.

After the four- to six-week recovery period, you’ll come back so the external components can be fitted. Lastly, the implant will be activated, adjusted, and programmed, which may take as long as three days as well as multiple visits.


Are There Risks Associated With Cochlear Implants?

Any surgical operation involves some risk, and cochlear implants are no different. Risks include damage to the facial nerve, anesthesia complications, leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, meningitis, problems with taste, perilymphatic fluid leakage, and localized inflammation. Patients may also experience vertigo (a spinning sensation), tinnitus, or numbness in the area around their ear. Blood or other fluids may also collect at the surgical site.


What Aftercare Is Required for Cochlear Implants?

This is a different type of hearing. The sounds you receive through the implant will sound unusual, but you will be taught how to interpret and understand them, which will require a considerable amount of rehabilitation from teachers and speech therapists. You’ll also need to learn communication, speech reading, and listening skills.

This is simply an overview. The process is complex and depends on your health, hearing, medical history, and motivation. There is a long follow-up and adjustment period. No two procedures are the same, but the preceding information should be enough to help you decide whether this option might be worth pursuing.

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