What is Cochlear Implant

  1. What is a cochlear implant ?
    It is a device that provides stimulation directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged cochlear hair cells that prevent sound from reaching the nerve.
  2. Will a cochlear implant restore normal hearing for deaf people ?
    No. A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. It is a communication tool and not cure for deafness. When hearing functions normally, parts of the ear convert sound waves into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent to the brain where they are recognized as sound. A cochlear implant simulates that process.
  3. How long have cochlear implants been available ?
    The US – FDA first approved cochlear implants for adults in 1985 and for children in 1990. More than two lakh individuals have received cochlear implants worldwide.
  4. Who is eligible to receive an implant ?
    Are all children with hearing loss candidates for cochlear implant ?
    In general, adults who have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and have benefited only minimally from hearing aids may qualify as candidates for cochlear  implantation.
    Children who have severe to profound bilateral hearing loss are potential candidates if hearing aids don’t help sufficiently for development of speech and language.
  5. What results can be expected from a cochlear implant ?
    It is very important that the implant recipient, and the family, particularly in case of a young child, have an understanding of cochlear implants and realistic expectations regarding the use of the device.
    As with any medical procedure, the results of implantation cannot be predicted prior to surgery and recipients may experience  wide range of outcomes. For individuals who lost theie hearing after learning to speak, the perception of speech and sounds after implantation may initially seem quite different from what they remember.After using the cochlear implant for seversl months or more, these individuals often report thst they perceive speech to be more natural or closer to their memory of familiar sounds.
  6. Are cochlear implants successful for young children ?
    The literature on outcomes consistently shows that many young children receive significant development benefit from cochlear implants in areas such as auditory, speech, language and social learning. There is a wide range in performance outcomes, making it challenging to predict how individual children will respond. Implantation prior to 3 years of age appears to provide greater benefit than implantation at later ages.
  7. What is the minimum age at which a child can be implanted ?
    A child can be implanted after the age of 6 months provided he or she fulfils the criteria for implantation.
  8. Once an individual receives an implant, is he/she finished with the process ?
    Wearing a cochlear implant is a lifetime commitment, and requires the recipient to maintain and care for the implant. After an individual receives the implant, he or she must return to the center for a number of follow-up services, including the fitting of the external components of the implant; activating and programming of the implant and its microphone, speech processor and transmitter; necessary adjustments and reprogramming and periodic checkups. In addition, recipients must undergo rehabilitation services with members of the team. Children often require years of extensive aural rehabilitation.
  9. What type of professionals compose the implant team ?
    Audiologists, speech language pathologists, ENT surgeons, medical specialists, psychologists and counselors.
  10. What does an implant sound like ?
    This is a tough question to answer as the answer can vary for each patient. Cochlear implant does not replicate what we hear. They also sound different than how a hearing aid amplifies sound. Some of the most common descriptions we hear from patients are “beeps“, “mechanical”, “cartoonish”, “alien-like”, “echo-like”, “like someone talking under water”, “like someone talking with marbles in their mouth” etc. The important thing is to realize that the sounds will get better over time and often odd sound quality will change as the brain better understands what it is hearing. There is no way to predict how as individual will respond with a cochlear implant. It is helpful to talk to as many current cochlear implant users as possible to better understand how it works.
  11. Can people with cochlear implants identify environmental sounds as well as speech ?
    Cochlear implants provide a wide range of sound information. They will probably hear most sounds of medium to high loudness. Patients often report that they can hear footsteps, slamming of doors, ringing of telephones, car engines, barking dogs, lawn movers and various other environmental sounds along with some softer sounds too. Performance in speech perception testing varies among individuals. With time and training, most patients understand more speech than with hearing aids and many communicate by telephone or enjoy music.
  12. Can people with cochlear implants swim, shower and participate in sports ?
    Yes. People with implants can swim, shower and participate in virtually all types of sport activities when they are not wearing the external equipment. The only restriction relates to sky diving and scuba diving because significant changes in air pressure are not advised. Participation in all other athletic activities is unrestricted, although protective headgear is always recommended.
  13. Can implanted individual sleep with an implant on ?
    No. The implant likely will come come off during sleep and could get damaged. It is recommended that the user removes the device before going to bed.
  14. Can implanted individual fly in an airplane ?
    Yes. Implanted individual needs to carry their cochlear implant identification card with them for their security. See Travel tips for more information. Provided there are no surgical complications, most patients can resume airline travel within a week or two of surgery after discussing it with the implant surgeon.
  15. Will the cochlear implant help to control the loudness of voice of the wearer ?
    Yes. The cochlear implant usually helps the wearer control the loudness because they can hear their voice in relation to background sounds.
  16. How lond does it take to ge maximum benefit from a cochlear implant ?
    It depends a lot on the patient and their rehabilitation group. It also depends on how long the patient has been without hearing. It depends on whether the patient was able to speak well before he or shelost hearing. Usually there is a rapid rise in the ability to interpret the sounds after receiving an implant. This rapid rise slows after about 3 months but continues.
  17. Can implanted person get an MRI ?
    The simple answer is no. Some of the devices have limited compatibility with MRI’s but this should always be discussed with implant surgeons.
  18. Can implanted person get an X-ray ?
    Yes. X-rays are fine, just removing external equipment is important.
  19. Is there a recommended cell phone for use with implants ?
    No. There is not one recommended cell phone for implant users. Most users will need to go and try various phones at a store before buying one they feel works better for them. There are several factors that can interfere with compatibility.
  20. Are there risks in cochlear implant surgery ?
    Risk is inherent in any surgery requiring general anesthesia. However, the surgical risks for cochlear implantation are minimal and most patients require only one day hospital stay and have no surgical complications.
  21. Will an implanted person need more surgeries as new technology becomes available ?
    The implanted unit is designed to last a lifetime. The externally worn speech processor, which is responsible for converting sound into code and sending the information to an internal unit, is dependent on software that can be upgraded as technology improves.
  22. Will an implanted child outgrow the internal device and require a new one ?
    No. The cochlea is fully formed at birth and the skull structures achieve almost full growth by age 2. The electrode array is designed to accommodate skull growth in children.