A cochlear implant is a device that is placed into the inner ear to restore hearing in a patient with severe to profound hearing loss. This exciting advancement in the field of otology has resulted in the restoration of functional hearing in countless people, young and old.
A cochlear implant is placed surgically, with the use of an operating microscope, by an otologist skilled in this advanced procedure. Once the device is activated, the components work in concert to send digital signals to whichever fibers remain intact in the hearing nerve. The signals are recognized by the brain as sound signals, and result in the ability to hear. This occurs within milliseconds, so there is no detectable delay between the production of sound and its reception in the listener’s brain.
There are specific criteria to determine candidacy for cochlear implantation. These criteria are different for adults and for children. An otologist can help determine if you are a candidate for a cochlear implant.
How will I hear with a cochlear implant?
Cochlear implants can provide excellent hearing and understanding of speech. While it may not perceived to be completely natural, the majority of individuals who receive cochlear implants report better ability to communicate in challenging situations, such as when there is background noise. Word discrimination and understanding vastly improve, resulting in improved ability to socialize and interact with others.
How soon after the surgery will I be able to hear?
The cochlear implant is activated approximately one month after surgery. This is done in the office and does not require another procedure. Most adults take between one and three months before they can really appreciate the full benefits they receive from a cochlear implant. Typically their hearing continues to improve over time as they continue to gain experience listening to sounds and speech.
Children may take longer, and this may require more work, as hearing is often a completely new experience. However, there are vast protocols and resources available to guide children into the world of hearing with a cochlear implant. The remarkable gains these children make reinforce the value of cochlear implantation in the selected child.