Cochlear implants can change how you interact with the world around you.
Cochlear implants are a type of electronic device used to assist in partially restoring a patient’s hearing. It is an option for certain types of hearing loss when hearing aids are not a good fit for the patient.
- Patients might consider cochlear implants in order to improve communication.
- If so, an auditory specialist can perform the proper evaluation to determine if they are a good candidate.
How They Work
These implants fit behind the ear and contain a sound processor. The processor component picks up sound signals and then transmits them to a receiver that is located behind the ear and below the skin. In the cochlea, there are implanted electrodes, and these receive signals from the receiver.
The signals that are sent stimulate the auditory nerve, which sends them to the brain. The brain can decipher these signals as sound. A cochlear implant does not produce sounds that are exactly like normal hearing. Patients, however, will undergo training so that they know how to interpret the signals that they receive from their implant.
What to Expect
Prior to the procedure, patients undergo an evaluation to determine if they are an ideal candidate for the implant. Tests for speech, hearing, and in some cases, balance, are conducted. Doctors examine the inner ear to determine its overall health. To look at the inner ear’s cochlea structure, imaging studies might be performed.
During the surgery, a small incision is made behind the ear and the mastoid area of the skull bone is slightly depressed. This is where the internal implant goes. In the cochlea, a small hole is made so the electrode portion can be placed. Stitches are used to close the incision.
In most cases, patients go home the same day. It is possible to experience some nausea, dizziness, or discomfort at the surgical site. Two to six weeks after the implantation, the implant will be activated.
For the most part, the surgery to place the implant is safe. However, there are a few risks that all patients should know about:
- The membranes surrounding the spinal cord and brain may become inflamed in children having this surgery. The meningitis vaccine may aid in preventing this when administered before the surgery.
- On some occasions, patients require additional surgery to either replace or repair a device.