If hearing aids are not able to provide you with sufficient benefit, cochlear implantation may be an option for you.
What Is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid.
A hearing aid uses acoustic hearing to process and amplify sounds so they can be picked up by hair cells in your cochlea (inner ear). These send impulses to the hearing nerves and then to the brain for interpretation. The more damaged your hair cells, the more processing and amplification is required to successfully hear with a hearing aid.
A cochlear implant, on the other hand, uses electrical hearing and is made up of several components that work together to completely bypass the hair cells — both intact and damaged — to directly stimulate the hearing nerve. Specifically, an external sound processor has microphones that pick up sound and transmit the signal to the internal implant components. These sounds are then distributed along the hearing nerve and continue on to the brain where they are interpreted.
Who Can Get a Cochlear Implant?
Cochlear implants are indicated for those who receive limited benefit from hearing aids. Adults and children can successfully benefit from cochlear implants, but there a few things to keep in mind:
- Cochlear implants don’t restore hearing — they allow the brain to receive and process sounds.
- The input your brain receives will be different than normal hearing, so you will have to relearn how to hear with this new type of input.
- This learning process requires patience. It will take time, but you’ll have a team — an audiologist, speech therapist, and ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor — working with you to ensure you’re as successful as possible.
- You’ll need to be motivated — the technology does have a learning curve, and your success depends on your efforts in adapting your technology to the important environments in your lifestyle.
What Are the Different Kinds of Cochlear Implants?
The basics are the same for all cochlear implants — an external processor captures sound and an internal component that allows for electrical stimulation.
There are, however, different options for the external components. Traditionally, the microphone and speech processor look like a behind-the-ear hearing aid. They are connected by a wire to the transmitter, which sits against the side of the head attached by a magnet.
Another set up, especially for children, is an on-body microphone and processor that attach to, for example, the child’s clothing. As in the behind-the-ear setup, a wire then attaches the processor to a transmitter that sits on the scalp.
A third type has the microphone, processor, and transmitter all in one unit that sits on the scalp, secured by a magnet, so there’s no behind-the-ear unit or wires.
What Brands of Cochlear Implant Do You Offer?
Cochlear Americas is the pioneer of the first commercially available cochlear implant.
Their Nucleus line includes traditional cochlear implants as well as a Cochlear Hybrid Hearing option, a combination of a cochlear implant and a traditional hearing aid. The hybrid technology, which is only appropriate for certain kinds of hearing loss, leverages the natural hearing you may still have while using cochlear implant technology to bypass damaged areas of the inner ear.
Their Kanso™ Sound Processor, one of the newest additions to cochlear-implant technology, works in concert with the Nucleus line of implants. The small, button-shaped, off-the-ear processor – designed to treat severe to profound hearing loss – requires no wires, comes in a range of colors, and sits comfortably on the side of the head, where it can be discreetly hidden by hair1.
1Copy courtesy of Cochlear Americas, ©2007
Their Baha line is what’s known as a bone-conduction implant. In some cases, a person with a perfectly healthy cochlea has a hearing loss because of a problem with the outer or middle ear. Rather than using brute force to move sound waves through these problems areas, like a hearing aid, a bone-conduction implant uses bone’s natural ability to transfer vibrations. The Baha doesn’t transmit electrical impulses to an implant in the cochlea, like a traditional cochlear implant. Rather, the external sound processor sends digital information to the transmitter implant, but the transmitter is secured in the bone just behind your ear, and this transmitter sends vibrations through the bone, past your damaged outer or middle ear, and directly to the healthy inner ear.
The Naída sound processor from Advanced Bionics has a behind-the-ear processor and 3 levels of performance. The highest level includes processors and microphones that communicate with each other, technology that adapts to the sounds in your environment, phone-streaming capabilities, and automatic syncing of program changes made in either processor.
The Neptune sound processor is a swimmable, waterproof option that allows you to wear your technology while swimming or bathing. It also uses Freestyle™, which allows you to choose how you wear your processor, whether in your hair, on your arm, or even in your pocket.
How Do I Know if I’m a Good Candidate for Cochlear Implants?
An audiologist at our Pomona, NY office can perform an extensive auditory evaluation to determine whether you’re a good candidate. If so, they’ll work in conjunction with an otologist to determine if you meet certain physical and balance requirements.
A cochlear implant isn’t just a procedure — it’s a relationship between you and your audiologist. Once the procedure is over, our audiologist continues with you through the adjustment period. They’ll be on the journey with you, evaluating and adjusting your technology and encouraging you as you gain new successes in your hearing.
You can learn more about the entire process, from initial evaluation through post-implant follow-up and adjustment, on our Cochlear Implant Process page.