According to Nidcd.nih.gov, approximately 736,900 cochlear implants have been implanted worldwide as of December 2019. Roughly 118,100 devices have been implanted in adults and 65,000 in children in the US. Cochlear implants are clearly beneficial for many people. But what exactly are they, and how do they work? Read on to find out.
What Is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that’s implanted in people with severe hearing loss. Cochlear implants are made up of several parts that contribute to their function. For instance, a cochlear implant comprises a microphone, speech processor, transmitter, receiver, and electrode array. When implanted, part of the device sits behind the ear, and the second portion goes under the skin.
Usually, cochlear implants are suitable for people experiencing severe hearing loss and who can’t benefit from hearing aids. Although cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing, these complex medical devices provide a valuable opportunity that helps those who are extremely hard of hearing to have some sensation of sound. In turn, this allows deaf people to navigate their environment better and make better sense of speech.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
A cochlear implant works differently from hearing aids designed to amplify sound. As mentioned, cochlear implants have an external and an internal part that’s surgically implanted. The external part hooks over the ear, and it consists of a microphone, speech processor, and transmitter. The microphone is responsible for capturing sounds from the environment. The speech processor then takes the selected sounds and digitizes them before sending them to the transmitter.
In turn, the transmitter is responsible for converting the digital sounds into electrical impulses, which are then sent to the internal part that’s implanted. A receiver sends the electrical impulses to an electrode array deep inside the ear. The electrodes then stimulate different regions of the auditory nerve, allowing the brain to interpret these signals as sound even though the process is different from normal hearing. As a result, people with cochlear implants may require some learning and adjustment to interpret the signals from the implant and to understand speech better. However, once the adjustment has been made, there’s a considerable improvement in quality of life.
Can You Benefit From Receiving a Cochlear Implant?
If you have severe hearing loss and hearing aids can’t help, then cochlear implants can be a viable solution for you. Overall they increase the quality of life by improving your communication. Cochlear implants are suitable for both adults and children who are as young as six months. Adults and children who have received cochlear implants can experience a wide range of benefits. To begin with, children who get cochlear implants from a young age are able to develop language skills nearly as quickly as their counterparts with normal hearing. This allows them to have a normal education with minimal challenges.
Similarly, adults that develop severe hearing later in life can also benefit from receiving cochlear implants. Instead of relying on lipreading, sign language, and other visual cues, they have the ability to hear the speech sounds they’re already familiar with, and they can locate the origin of different sounds. In addition, cochlear implants enable them to recognize sounds that happen all around their environment and can even listen to specific sounds in a noisy environment. In a nutshell, cochlear implants allow deaf people and those with residual hearing to lead a relatively normal life that includes doing everyday things like watching TV, listening to music, and participating in phone calls.
What Else Do I Need to Know About Cochlear Implants?
Keep in mind that to be eligible for cochlear implants, the person must be severely hard of hearing because they struggle with spoken communication and can no longer benefit from hearing aids. In addition, the person must not have any medical conditions that amplify the risk of receiving cochlear implants. These risks include loss of residual hearing, inflammation, and device failure, while possible complications include bleeding, infection, ear noise, and balance problems. Receiving a cochlear implant requires surgery and rehabilitation to train the brain to better interpret the signals from the cochlear implant.
Understanding how cochlear implants work will help you understand whether they’re suitable for you or your loved one. Generally, cochlear implants help improve the quality of life for many people, and they can be beneficial for you too. If you would like to learn more about cochlear implants, you can reach out to us directly, so we can help you make an informed decision.
Call Ear Specialists of Omaha & Bellevue at (402) 933-3277 for more information or to schedule an appointment.