Certain types of hearing loss can’t be treated with traditional hearing aids. One alternative is the cochlear implant.
What's a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that helps overcome hearing loss caused by problems with the inner ear, or cochlea. If the cochlea or inner ear doesn't work properly, the auditory nerve isn't stimulated and electrical signals can’t reach the brain—which means that hearing doesn’t occur. Cochlear implants essentially replace the function of the cochlear structures.
A cochlear implant system has two main parts—the surgically implanted internal device and the external sound processor. The sound processor sits behind the ear. It picks up sound and converts it to electrical signals.
The sound processor then sends the electrical signals to the internal device via a coil that's placed over the implant on the outside of the skin. The internal device then uses those electrical signals to directly stimulate the hearing nerve, providing the sensation of sound.
In a nutshell, this is how it works:
- Microphones on the sound processor pick up sounds and the processor converts them into digital information.
- This information is transferred through the coil to the implant just under the skin.
- The implant sends electrical signals down the electrode into the cochlea.
- The hearing nerve fibers in the cochlea pick up the signals and send them to the brain, giving the sensation of sound.
Who’s a candidate?
A cochlear implant can provide significant benefit for children and adults with sensorineural hearing loss who do not benefit from the use of hearing aids.
A traditional cochlear implant is for:
- Adults with moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and poor word understanding, even with the use of hearing aids
- Children (2-17 years) with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and poor word understanding, even with the use of hearing aids
- Children (12-24 months) with profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and limited auditory skill development, even with the use of hearing aids
The hybrid cochlear implant is approved by the FDA and expanded the candidacy criteria for cochlear implants. This device combines acoustic stimulation, much like a hearing aid, with electrical stimulation in the same ear to provide hearing to patients.
This option is available for adults with useable low-frequency hearing that steeply slopes to a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in the mid- to high frequencies. This configuration of hearing loss is often called a ski-slope hearing loss. These individuals get some benefit from hearing aids but continue to struggle with clarity of speech and word understanding.
Our cochlear implant team
Dr. Eytan Young and our audiology department work together to provide consultation, implantation, programming and maintenance of the cochlear implant.
Is it right for you?
If you think you or your child could benefit from one of these types of cochlear implant systems, request an appointment below or call 515-223-4368.