Hearing aids have revolutionized the lives of thousands of Americans with hearing loss. But for some with more severe hearing loss, hearing aids don’t prove effective.
Before cochlear implants were invented, there was little else that could be done in these cases. But today the advanced technology packed into these medical devices is truly life changing for those with severe hearing loss.
So what is a cochlear implant? How does it work? And what is life with a cochlear implant like?
In this blog, we’ll answer these questions and more.
What is a cochlear implant?
First off, a quick word on the ear. The ear is made up of 3 sections, outer, middle and inner. Cochlea implants treat hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear (click here to read about the different types of hearing loss).
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear so that people can experience the sounds around them. They come in 2 parts:
- an external processor that sits behind the ear, which detects sounds via its microphones and converts them into digital messages
- an internal electrode array that is placed within the inner ear, which receives the digital messages from the external processor converts them into electrical signals that it sends along the auditory nerve to the brain.
These implants aren’t suitable for everyone and at Johnson Audiology we can help you explore whether a cochlear implant is right for you.
What’s the difference between a cochlear implant and a hearing aid?
Hearing aids amplify sounds so that they can be heard even when parts of the ear are damaged. Cochlear implants are more complex. They intelligently pick up sounds from the environment and transmit them directly to the auditory nerve, which carries them to the brain. The ‘intelligent’ part comes from the fact that cochlear implants can figure out which sounds a person needs to hear and can modify them to make them clearer.
It does take a little while to get used to interpreting the sound messages transmitted by cochlear implants, but we are here to support you through this process.
How are cochlear implants fitted?
You need to have minor surgery under general anesthetic to have a cochlear implant fitted. It is inserted under the skin behind the ear. When you wake up, it will not work straight away as the area needs time to heal.
Once you’ve had time to heal, your implant will be switched on and it is time to start learning how to use it. This takes practice and it is helpful to have a family member or close friend with you during this process.
What impact does a cochlear implant have on hearing day-to-day?
There are lots of daily experiences that require a focused kind of hearing. For example, listening to a person talk when others are speaking around you, chatting on your cell with background noise at both ends of the conversation or listening to music or the TV.
A cochlear implant can help you enjoy all of these experiences again by improving your ability to hear a variety of sounds. This can help you connect with people and be more engaged with the world. Without these experiences, a sense of increasing isolation can set in, so improving your ability to hear is about more than just enjoyment.
Starting the journey towards a cochlear implant
The best way to figure out if you could benefit from a cochlear implant is to talk to a member of our team at Johnson Audiology. We will discuss your hearing health and hearing concerns, as well as fill you in with more details about cochlear implants.
Click here to request a call back and one of our lovely team will be in touch.
Dr. Megan Johnson is the owner and licensed audiologist at Johnson Audiology. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communication disorders from Western Carolina University, a master’s degree in audiology from the University of Tennessee, and her doctorate in audiology from the University of Florida.