Cochlear Implants

What is a cochlear implant?

  • a devise that can provide sound detection and speech recognition to those that receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
  • Why does it work better than hearing aids for some individuals?
    • The implant can bypass the damaged sense organ of hearing (cochlea) and directly stimulates the hearing (auditory) nerve
  • tiny electrodes are surgically inserted into the cochlea
  • sounds are then converted into electrical signals that go to the auditory nerve
  • parts of the cochlear implant
    • internal device (surgically implanted)
      • receiver
      • electrodes
    • external device
      • microphone
      • speech processor
      • transmitter (headpiece)

How a Cochlear Implant Works

  1. microphone picks up the sound energy
  2. microphone transmits the signal through the cord to the speech processor
  3. speech processor filters, analyzes, and coverts the sound energy into a digital code
  4. speech processor sends the digital code to the headpiece
  5. headpiece transmits the digital code via radio frequencies to the internal receiver
  6. internal receiver delivers the signal to the inserted electrodes inside the cochlea
  7. electrodes (bypass the damaged parts of the cochlea) and send a tiny electrical charge to the auditory nerve
  8. the auditory nerve carries these electrical signals to the brain
  9. brain interprets the electrical signals as sound

This process occurs very rapidly. The listener hears speech and other sounds without noticeable delay.


A demonstration of how a Cochlear Implant Works

Watch a demonstration of how a cochlear implant works...


Cochlear Demonstration   

Who is a good candidate for a cochlear implant?
A good adult candidate should:

  • have severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • receive little benefit from hearing aids
  • have no other medical concerns that would interfere with the surgery
  • be motivated to use hearing for communication

A good child candidate should:

  • have severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • receive little benefit from hearing aids
  • have no other medical concerns that would interfere with the surgery
  • have a motivated family and support network
  • have realistic expectations of the implant
  • be willing to dedicate considerable time and energy to the rehabilitation process
  • have a strong educational program that emphasized auditory skills

What is the cost of a cochlear implant?
Cost of a cochlear implant

  • The combined cost for pre-implant evaluations, the implant device, surgery and post-surgical fittings may be anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 depending on individual needs and the implant center used
  • Most cochlear implant centers will help obtain insurance approval for the cost of the surgery and follow-up appointments.
  • Most private and group medical insurance policies cover the cost of the device and surgery.

What are some reasonable expectations from a cochlear implant?
Reasonable Expectations/Considerations of a Cochlear Implant

  • benefits are not immediate
  • improvements occur over months or even years
  • amount of benefit is linked to the age of the child at time of implantation, cause of the hearing loss, and family support and involvement after implantation
  • improved detection of environmental sounds and speech
  • improved speech reading ability
  • improved clarity of the child’s speech
  • amount of speech understanding obtained and clarity of the child’s speech cannot be predicted
  • usually it takes up to one year after implantation for distinct changes in a child’s ability to communicate
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