A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that performs the inner ear’s function. It provides a sense of sound to the person who is profoundly deaf or who has a serious hearing problem. The implant consists of two parts: the external part that sits behind the ear and the internal part that is surgically implanted under the skin. Hearing aids work by making the sounds louder, while the implants replace the function of the inner ear’s damaged part to send sound signals to the brain. The implant device consists of different parts including, a microphone, speech processor, transmitter and an electrode array.
Unlike the hearing aids that amplify sounds so the damaged ears can detect them, the cochlear implant works differently. They directly stimulate the auditory nerve and send the signals to the brain, which recognises the signals as sound. Basically, the implant will do the work of the damaged cochlea – sending signals to the brain. Hearing through the cochlear implant isn’t the same with normal hearing. It usually requires time to learn its function, so patience is important to relearn hearing using the device.
Cochlear implants are ideal for both adults and children who are suffering from hearing loss or any of the following:
- Have a profound hearing loss in one ear, but with normal hearing in the other ear
- Receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
- Have moderate to profound hearing impairment in both ears or completely deaf
- Score less than 65% on sentence recognition tests carried out by a hearing professional
Some people have cochlear implants in both ears while others in just one ear. Obviously, listening with two ears can improve the ability to detect the direction of the sound and separate the sounds you want to hear from those that you don’t want to hear.
What are the benefits of the implants?
It enables the patient to hear again, so it is a great help to those who are suffering from any hearing disorder. Below are some benefits of having cochlear implants:
- Help patients to focus better when in noisy environments
- Reconnect with missed sounds that patient could not hear before the cochlear implant
- Talk and hear on the phone
- Hear better than with a hearing aid
- Feel safer in both indoor and outdoor since patients can hear alarms, people calling out and approaching vehicles
- Allow patients to have conversations with other people across tables, parks, streets, restaurants and other crowded places
- Enjoy listening to music