Cochlear implants treat severe to profound hearing loss in patients with sensorineural (inner ear-related) hearing loss where impairment can’t be treated with hearing aids. The devices are surgically implanted and are able to bypass the problematic areas in the ear by directly stimulating the cochlea. Cochlear implants must be surgically placed by a trained physician.
How does it work?
A cochlear implant works differently than a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so that a person with hearing loss can hear more clearly. Cochlear implants generate an electrical signal that the brain interprets as sound. While a cochlear implant does not cure deafness or restore hearing loss, it does allow a patient to perceive sound, and can help him or her to converse again.
Who can get cochlear implants?
In order to determine whether you are a candidate for cochlear implants, you’ll have to meet a specified list of criteria. If you are experiencing severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (the result of damage to the inner ear) and can’t benefit from conventional hearing aids, you are a prime candidate for cochlear implants.
What are the benefits?
These implants are most helpful in patients with solid language and communication skills and a hearing loss that occurred later in life. Younger children (typically between the ages of two and six) also benefit, since a cochlear implant exposes them to sounds during their formative learning years, while they are developing speech and language skills. Post-implantation therapy is a crucial component in the success of cochlear implants; learning to use them correctly takes time and effort.
If you are interested in finding out if you’re a candidate for cochlear implants, ask your PCP for a referral.