Hearing loss has become more common than ever with almost 50 million Americans and over 460 million people worldwide diagnosed with hearing impairment. In many cases, the loss is mild or moderate requiring a hearing aid to manage. In other cases, severe cases, a more robust device is needed. This is where cochlear implants come in.
What Is A Cochlear Implant?
With roots originating in research of the 19th Century, cochlear implants have proved an exceptional advancement for those with hearing loss. Like hearing aids, cochlear implants allow people with hearing loss to hear the sounds around them. Unlike hearing aids, a cochlear implant does not just amplify sounds it picks up with the microphone but sends signals directly to the auditory nerve to give the wearer a sense of sound.
A cochlear implant is made up of an external piece attached directly behind the ear and an internal piece placed surgically beneath the skin. While they are visible, they can be an easy fit even for an active lifestyle.
The cochlear implant includes:
- A microphone that detects sounds in the individual’s environment
- A speech processor that arranges the sounds picked up by the microphone
- A transmitter and receiver that receives the signals from the speech processor and converts them to electronic signals
- An electrode array that transmits the electronic signals to the auditory nerve to be interpreted as sound
Cochlear implants do not restore hearing and may not offer the same sound experience that those using hearing aids may have, but these devices allow individuals with very little to no hearing ability to get a sense of the sounds around them. This is something that was unheard of in the not too distant past.
Who Can Benefit From A Cochlear Implant?
As of 2012, almost 100,000 cochlear implants had been surgically implanted in both adults and children in the United States. Those who are deaf or severely hard of hearing, for whom hearing aids are not an option, are candidates for these hearing devices. Cochlear implants are FDA-approved for use in children as young as 12 months old offering the opportunity for those born deaf to begin learning how to hear almost from the very beginning.
Because cochlear implants work differently than hearing aids, directly with the auditory nerve rather than through the inner ear, there is more to the process than just a fitting. Those for whom the cochlear implant may be an option must:
- Work closely with their medical providers and a specialist to determine if the cochlear implant is a good fit for them. This includes discussions about potential risks that any surgery may bring as well as each individual’s unique diagnosis and needs.
- Commit to post-implant therapy to learn or re-learn how to hear with the cochlear implant.
The process may be long, and in some cases expensive, but it can be a smart decision for many diagnosed with deafness or severe hearing loss.
If you or someone you know is affected by severe hearing loss, discuss options with your hearing healthcare provider. A cochlear implant may be a good fit to help you start hearing again.
If you haven’t already, now is the best time to schedule a hearing evaluation. With our comprehensive services, we can help you determine if you have hearing loss and what options may be best for you and your lifestyle.