Have you been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss? Are you worried you won’t be able to hear properly ever again? Well, you don’t need to worry much. Through medical advancements, several devices and management practices have been developed which help patients manage hearing loss. One such device is called cochlear implants.
WHAT ARE COCHLEAR IMPLANTS?
Much like hearing aids, cochlear implants help people with hearing loss to hear better. A cochlear implant is a small device that is implanted surgically for individuals who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing. The general belief is that hearing loss can be cured; however, that is a misconception. Devices such as hearing aids don’t cure hearing loss, rather they create a perception of hearing. Similarly, cochlear implants do not repair hearing, they overpass the dysfunctional passage in the cochlea and transmit sound to the auditory nerve system.
HOW DOES COCHLEAR IMPLANT WORK?
Cochlear implants are of different types; however, all of them work in a similar fashion. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged hair cells (cells that transmit sound to the auditory nerves) and work as their substitute.
Cochlear implants are divided in two major parts with smaller parts within them. One part is external which is fixed behind the ear, the other major is an internal one which is placed under the skin through surgery. These major parts are further divided into smaller ones which work in coordination to transmit sound.
Firstly, the cochlear implant consists of a microphone. The microphone looks similar to behind the ear hearing aids. It is responsible for picking up the sound and sending it to the speech processor. The second part is the speech processor. The speech processor too is placed externally. It is either attached with the microphone or placed inside a box which is usually kept inside the chest pocket. The speech processor receives the sound from the microphone, analyzes it and digitizes it to be read by other parts of the cochlear implants. The third part is the transmitter or receiver/stimulator. The transmitter is placed externally while the receiver is part of the internal device. The digitized sound sent by the speech processor is converted into electrical pulses by the transmitter. Lastly, we come to the fourth part which is the electrode array. The electrode array uses the electrical pulses and stimulates different parts of the auditory nerve to create the perception of sound
WHO SHOULD GET COCHLEAR IMPLANTS?
Anyone who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing is usually recommended by the doctors to get cochlear implants. Along with this, some other reasons that may require you to get a cochlear implant are:
- If hearing aids do not work for you
- If you are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing
- If you do not have a medical condition that can hamper surgery
According to the latest research, children with hearing loss who get cochlear implants, before the age of 18 months, learn communication much better than those who get it later in life. In some cases, they are able to learn at almost the same pace as children with normal hearing. Due to this, FDA has approved children aged 12 months and above to receive cochlear implants.