Tell me more about a cochlear implant

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device, which is implanted in the ear to help people with profound deafness or severe hearing loss. The cochlear implant is made up of four key component parts, including:

  • A microphone: this picks up sounds and noises from the surroundings
  • A speech processor: this selects and processes the sounds and noises recognised by the microphone
  • A transmitter: this receives the sounds from the processor and converts them into electrical impulses
  • An electrode array: this is a collection of electrodes, which are responsible for collecting the impulses by way of the transmitter and sending them to the auditory nerve

The cochlear implant has both internal and external parts; the internal part is implanted during surgery and the external part sits behind the ear.

How does a cochlear implant function to improve audiology?

A cochlear implant is not the same as a hearing aid; a hearing aid amplifies sounds, while a cochlear implant stimulates the auditory nerve. The signals sent to the auditory nerve from the implant are then sent to the brain; the brain then recognises these signals as sounds.

Sounds when suing a cochlear implant will sound different to natural hearing and it may take a while for the individual to learn how to hear using their cochlear implant.

Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?

Cochlear implants are recommended for people who have profound or severe deafness in one or both ears. Most patients are advised to try a hearing aid for a period of three months; if this has no positive effect, a cochlear implant may be recommended. Many children with profound or severe deafness are given cochlear implants and adults may also be advised to consider this form of treatment; adults with other disabilities, such as blindness, may also be advised to have a cochlear implant if they have severe hearing problems, as they will be more reliant on their hearing.

What happens during the procedure?

Having a cochlear implant requires a surgical procedure followed by a period of therapy to learn how to hear using the implant. The implant is fitted during a surgical procedure and the individual then undergoes therapy with audiologists and speech and language therapists to learn how to interpret the sounds and noises.


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