What is a Cochlear Implant?
It’s an electronic device that bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea), generating sound signals and delivering them to the brain. Implants assist people with severe to profound hearing loss when conventional hearing aids are not sufficient.
The implant is a two-part device; the external speech processor sits behind the ear, with the addition of an electrode array, which is surgically implanted into the cochlea or inner ear. They are manufactured by the leading Australian company Cochlear Ltd, and are the implants we recommend.
How do they work?
Many people suffer hearing loss because the hair cells in the inner ear or (or ‘cochlea’) are damaged. The cochlear implant enables the sound to be transferred to your hearing nerves and enables you to hear.
1. A sound processor worn behind the ear or on the body, captures sound and turns it into digital code. The sound processor has a battery that powers the entire system.
2. The sound processor transmits the digitally-coded sound through the coil on the outside of your head to the implant.
3. The implant converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed in the cochlea (the inner ear).
4. The implant’s electrodes stimulate the cochlea’s hearing nerve, which then sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
Cochlear Implants Versus Hearing Aids
A hearing aid uses the natural function of the ear by simply amplifying and tuning sound to the point where it reaches the person’s audible range.
A cochlear implant is a more sophisticated device that performs the work of the ear, bypassing the damaged ear completely. The implant’s sound processor actually produces the sound signals that are received by the brain. Sounds are digitally coded and converted into electronic impulses, then delivered straight to the auditory nerve, where they are carried to the brain.
The process of getting a cochlear implant involves the surgeon implanting the electrode in hospital and the audiologist programming the speech processor with the help of the patient in the clinic.
Fitting Cochlear Implants
Our audiologists have assisted in fitting over 500 cochlear implants. Fitting an implant is a partnership between you, an ENT surgeon, your Audiologist and your GP. One of our Audiologists manages the process to keep you informed of progress and what is involved at each stage.
- The process is initiated with a comprehensive assessment by an Ear Nose & Throat (ENT) surgeon and our Audiologists – including audiometry, speech tests, hearing aid suitability and a comprehensive explanation of the process.
- The first goal is to determine if any of the available hearing aids can deliver a satisfactory level of hearing improvement. When none are suitable, you may be an eligible candidate for a cochlear implant.
- There may be a psychological assessment to further assess suitability for a cochlear implant.
- It may be possible to introduce you to a cochlear implant recipient, enabling you to discuss living with an implant and gain a full understanding of what to expect from your implant.
- The final decision to proceed is made between you and your GP, considering all of the assessment results.
- Cochlear implant surgery takes place to insert the electrode. This usually only requires one night in hospital.
- Our team will liaise with your surgeon regarding when to ‘switch on’ or ‘activate’ your implant, which can be anywhere from days or up to three weeks after surgery.
- Your implant will need to be ‘switched on’ and programmed over two or three sessions at The Independent Hearing Centre. Several training and rehabilitation sessions may be required after this to re-map your implant.
- Your cochlear implant requires on-going support through sessions with your audiologist at our centre to monitor your progress.