What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant (bionic ear implant) is a computerized device that may restore useful hearing to persons with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (nerve deafness). It is the only medical technology able to restore one of the body’s five senses – the sense of hearing. People who receive little benefit from hearing aids are considered for cochlear implant candidacy. Worldwide, there are more than 400,000 children and adults who benefit from cochlear implants. Unlike a hearing aid, which amplifies incoming sound, a cochlear implant changes sound waves into electrical signals. Hearing aids require functioning hair cells in the inner ear whereas cochlear implants bypass damaged hair cells and convert speech and environmental sounds into electrical signals and send these signals to the hearing nerve.
A cochlear implant has two main components:
- An internal component that consists of a small electronic device that is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear, connected to electrodes that are inserted inside the cochlea.
- An external component, worn behind the ear, that consists of a speech processor, microphone, and battery compartment.
The microphone captures sound, allowing the speech processor to translate it into distinctive electrical signals. These signals or “codes” travel up a thin cable to the headpiece and are transmitted across the skin via radio waves to the implanted electrodes in the cochlea. The electrodes’ signals stimulate the auditory nerve fibers to send information to the brain, where it is interpreted as meaningful sound.
Cochlear implant surgery
Cochlear implant surgery is usually performed as an outpatient procedure under general anesthesia. An incision is made behind the ear to open the mastoid bone leading to the middle ear space. Once the middle ear space is exposed, an opening is made in the cochlea and the implant electrodes are inserted. The electronic device at the base of the electrode array is then placed under the skin behind the ear.
This surgery can be performed in individuals older than 12 months who do not benefit from hearing aids.
The Cochlear Implant Team
Our cochlear implant team consists of one neurotology surgeon and two doctors of audiology with wide expertise in all ear pathologies. The preoperative evaluation, intraoperative measurements, and postoperative rehabilitation of each patient is performed precisely using state of the art technology. The surgery is carried out with utmost safety using the most current medical equipment.