What is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. A Cochlear implant does not restore or create normal hearing. Instead it can give a person a useful auditory understanding of the environment and help him or her to understand speech.
Who is a Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?
In general adults who can only understand up to 50% of words in sentences with appropriately fitted hearing aids are considered to be candidates. Children need to have a profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss and little to no progression in speech development. Family motivation and commitment to rehabilitation play a significant part in determining if a child is considered for a cochlear implant.
How Are Hearing Aids Different?
Hearing aids are designed to amplify sound. To a person with severe to profound hearing loss, amplification won't provide much hearing because sound is still being delivered through a damaged part of the ear. A cochlear implant doesn’t make sounds louder – it bypasses the damaged part of the ear and sends sound directly to the auditory (hearing) nerve to provide a clearer understanding of sound and speech.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
- A Sound Processor captures sound from the environment. It then processes the sound into digital information and transmits the electrical information over a transmitting antenna, or headpiece. The headpiece is held in place by a magnet in both the headpiece and the implant.
- The Implant converts digital information into an electrical signal and then sends the signals down tiny wires to the electrode array in the inner ear.
- The Electrode Array delivers electrical signals through tiny contacts or electrodes to the hearing nerve.
- The hearing nerve carries the sound information to the brain where it is heard.
The Initial Consultation
The evaluation for a cochlear implant usually involves several appointments. The process for adults and children is different but can include some of the same basic appointments.
- Initial Audiological Consultation Aided/Unaided Audiological & Speech perception testing.
- Computed Tomography Imaging (CT Scan).
- Medical Evaluation.
- Cochlear Implant Device and Processors discussion.
What Can I Expect from a Cochlear Implant?
Outcomes for a cochlear implant vary for each individual patient and is difficult to predict how someone will do with a cochlear implantation. Factors that effect the benefit from a cochlear implant include but are not limited to such things as:
- Previous auditory experience.
- Age at implantation.
- Length of deafness.
- Therapy approaches.
- Presence of other disabilities.
- Level of motivation.
- A good support system.
Patients with a cochlear implant report that sound does not sound normal. They report a robotic quality or sometimes just beeping. The brain needs time to make sense of this new sound. With time, practice, and patience the cochlear implant sound becomes more natural. Many people are able to talk on the phone after 6 months of use. All patients have an increase in the amount of sounds they hear but it takes time to determine how much the brain will understand with the cochlear implant for speech understanding.
Cochlear implants at the University of Kentucky. The University of Kentucky has been providing cochlear implant services since 1989. Dr. Raleigh Jones has implanted 200 cochlear implants in both children and adults. Patients at the University of Kentucky have a choice between three cochlear implants; Advanced Bionics Corporation, Cochlear Americas or MED-EL.