Birds chirping, the phone ringing, a song on the radio-these are all familiar sounds for most of us. Imagine not having heard these sounds and suddenly being able to hear them? Or to have lost your hearing and to be able to regain it back? It is possible with a cochlear implant…
What it is
A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help provide a sense of sound to a profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing person. Implanted surgically under the ear, it has four basic parts: A microphone that picks up sound from the environment, a speech processor which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone, a transmitter and receiver/stimuli which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses, and electrodes which collect the impulses from the stimulator and send them to the brain. A cochlear implant does not restore or create normal hearing, but instead, under appropriate conditions, can give a deaf person useful auditory understanding of the environment and help him or her to understand speech.
How it works
A cochlear implant includes an internal and external component. The internal component is surgically inserted under the skin behind the ear, and a narrow wire is threaded into the inner ear. The external component is connected to the internal one through the skin through an external magnetic disk.
Different from a Hearing Aid
A cochlear implant is quite different from a hearing aid which is used to simply amplify sound. An implant rather compensates for damaged or non-working parts of the inner ear. In normal hearing, complicated parts of the inner ear convert sound waves in the air into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent to the brain where a person who can hear, will hear recognize them as a sound.
Adults, especially who have lost their hearing later in life, can benefit from cochlear implants as they often associate the sounds made through an implant with the sounds they may remember. They often recognize sound without visual cues or systems such as lip reading or sign language. Young children are also candidates for implants; which coupled with intensive postimplantation therapy, can help young children acquire speech, language, developmental, and social skills. Though the best age is still debated for implantation, most children receiving implants are between the ages of two and six years old.
Factors Taken into Consideration that Contribute to the Success of a Cochlear Implant Include:
- How long a person has been deaf?
- The number of surviving auditory nerve fibers.
- A patient’s motivation to hear. (Credit: www.hearingloss.org)