Cochlear implants were initially approved and released by the FDA in the mid-1980’s, however, the concept of origination began in the 1950’s. A cochlear implant provides sensory (sound) information directly to the hearing nerve (auditory nerve) which is then carried directly to the brain for sound interpretation. We truly “hear” at the level of the brain. The ear, and now the cochlear implant, are dedicated to collecting the sounds around us, including speech, like a funnel.
The device allows sound to bypass the hearing impaired ear, therefore directly stimulating the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants are comprised of two components: an internal implant (which requires surgery) and an external speech processor which is worn on the head or ear. The two components connect to each other via a magnet. The external speech processor can be easily removed off the head or ear and there is no evidence of an internal implant once the surgical site heals.
Cochlear implants are ideal for patients with sensorineural hearing loss who receive little to no benefit from hearing aids. Both children and adults can be cochlear implant recipients. However with babies, early detection is vital in order to learn speech and language using the cochlear implant. Auditory habilitation is recommended for very young children in order to learn how to listen from their implants so they can appropriately develop speech and language. Adults who no longer receive benefits from their hearing aids or suddenly lose their hearing are provided with a home program from Dr. Saltarrelli in order to quickly adjust and interpret the sound provided by their cochlear implant.
A cochlear implant evaluation is administered by an audiologist to determine candidacy and discuss realistic expectations. If a patient is determined to be a candidate, an appointment with an otolaryngologist is scheduled to discuss the surgical aspects of the implant. Activation and further cochlear implant management is then provided by an audiologist.
Cochlear implants now offer bluetooth technology which allows the device to stream sound from various instruments including iPhones. A hybrid model is also available which behaves like a hearing aid and a cochlear implant simultaneously. It amplifies low pitches which travel the natural pathways of the ear while sending high pitches directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing the ear’s natural pathways.
Typically a cochlear implant is not a quick fix, as it takes time for the human brain to learn how to interpret the new signal it receives from the implant. Remember, we truly “hear” at the level of the brain! However with time and practice (i.e., listening through the implant), both adults and children have been very successful in achieving the gift of sound for communication. Success is very individualized and perfect hearing is never guaranteed. It truly depends on the recipient and the circumstances surrounding the need for implantation.
Autumn Oak provides services for three cochlear implant manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas, and Med El.