WHAT IS A COCHLEAR IMPLANT AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
Cochlear implant is an implantable hearing prosthesis which consists of two main components – internal implant and external audio processor. The externally worn audio processor detects sounds and sends them to the internal implant, which is placed just under the skin. The microphone in the audio processor detects sound signals and sends them to a coil. This coil transmits the sound signals to the internal implant, which then converts them into electrical pulses. The internal implant has an electrode attached which is inserted into the cochlea in the inner ear. Through the electrodes, electrical stimulation is provided, thereby restoring the lost function of hearing.
WHO IS A SUITABLE CANDIDATE FOR COCHLEAR IMPLANT?
An individual with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss not benefitting from hearing aids is a suitable candidate for cochlear implant. Children born with hearing loss as well as children/adults who may have acquired hearing loss at a later age benefit from a cochlear implant. Further, people with steeply sloping hearing loss not benefitting from hearing aids may be candidates for Electric Acoustic Stimulation (EAS).
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF COCHLEAR IMPLANTS?
Better audibility, leading to better speech and language development.
Evidence shows that children who received their cochlear implants at an early age perform better at school, are more likely to attend mainstream schools and have better career prospects than their peers with similar degrees of hearing loss who are implanted at a later age.
Better understanding of speech, even in background noise.
Users enjoy a more active social life with reduced risks of social isolation and depression, leading to a better quality of life.
Communicating on the telephone and watching television is easier with cochlear implants due to improved speech understanding.
Being able to hear the doorbell, telephone ring, traffic and participate in group conversations gives users more independence and confidence.
Music appreciation is better because cochlear implant enables users to distinguish a wide range of sounds.
ROLE OF REHABILITATION IN COCHLEAR IMPLANTATION
Once cochlear implant surgery is done, the external audio processor is activated and periodically mapped by the audiologist. After receiving a cochlear implant, one of the most important steps is rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is the process of actively learning to hear with an implant and is important for both children and as well as adults. A cochlear implant brings in “access to sounds”. However, for the recipient to be able to attend to and associate meaning to sounds, and to be able to sophisticate communication through various faculties, auditory rehabilitation is needed.
COCHLEAR IMPLANT FAQs
Who is a candidate for cochlear implant?
An individual with severe to profound hearing loss, who is not benefitting from hearing aids, may be a candidate for cochlear implant.
What is the suitable age for cochlear implantation?
Scientific evidence shows that children implanted at an early age often have a distinct advantage in listening, speech and language development. As per existing regulatory approvals in some countries, children as young as 1 year old can be implanted.
I am senior citizen. Am I too old for a cochlear implant?
There is no upper age limit for cochlear implantation. However, your doctor would be able to give you the best advice based on your general health conditions. Further, rehabilitation is important to regain listening skills for every candidate irrespective of their age at implantation.
I have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears. Do I need implant in one or both ears?
Two ears are always better than one. Scientific evidence shows that there are benefits of bilateral hearing. Some of the benefits of bilateral hearing include improved ability to localise sounds, better understanding in noisy situations and less auditory fatigue in social interactions.
What are the tests needed to determine if I or my child needs a cochlear implant?
If you suspect that you or your child has a hearing loss, the first step is to contact an ENT specialist to determine the cause, severity and type of hearing loss. Further to determine cochlear implant candidacy and feasibility, a battery of tests is normally recommended by a team of professionals.
What is the process involved in cochlear implantation?
Once the candidacy for cochlear implantation is established, an ENT surgeon would perform the cochlear implant surgery. Thereafter, subject to surgical healing, the device is switched on and mapped by an audiologist. Further, a rehabilitation professional works with the cochlear implant recipient and their family to facilitate optimal communication development. Mapping may be required to be done from time to time.