Cochlear Implants – What to do when hearing aids don’t help anymore

Cochlear Implant

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted hearing device that helps people with significant bilateral sensorineural hearing loss hear when traditional hearing aids provide little benefit.  In some cases of severe and profound hearing loss, hearing aids may be of limited benefit due to little or no residual hearing to work with. Instead of amplifying sound, as would a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses the outer, middle, and damaged part of the inner ear to directly stimulate the hearing nerve. There are two parts to a cochlear implant: the sound processor and the implant. The sound processor picks up the sound in the outside environment, sends the information to the internal implant, to the hearing nerve, and into the brain for processing. The sound processor sends information to the implant via a magnet that holds the two in place behind the ear, and is removable. The implant is surgically seated in the inner ear organ, the cochlea, where tiny sensors send sound in the form of electrical impulses to the hearing nerve. This is essentially a man made electronic ear stimulating the hearing nerve.

There are certain qualifications that a patient must meet in order to be a good candidate for a cochlear implant. For this type of amplification device, a patient’s age and the severity of their hearing loss are two significant determining factors. Patients ages 18 and over can qualify for a cochlear implant if they have bilateral moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Patients between the ages of 25 months to 17 years 11 months of age can qualify if they have a bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Patients between 12 to 24 months can qualify if they have bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss. Qualifications for obtaining cochlear implants also include scores for certain types of speech testing (varies by age), absence of any medical contraindications, high motivation, and appropriate expectations from both patient and family. A general rule of thumb is that as long as a hearing aid is benefitting te patient and improving their hearing, they are probably not yet a cochlear implant candidate.

The first step in determining if a cochlear implant is an option for you, is a visit to an audiologist. The doctors of audiology at Cornerstone Ear, Nose, and Throat can perform a comprehensive audiological examination and discuss with you the best options for your specific hearing needs. At CornerStone Ear, Nose, and Throat we do not perform cochlear implants surgeries but we can direct you to the appropriate facilities in the event that you or your child is an implant candidate.

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