A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted prosthesis that can restore some hearing to those with profound hearing loss or deafness. Outcomes vary from person to person with some only achieving sound awareness and others doing so well they can even communicate well by phone.
For those living in a silent world, implants can be a life changer. Individuals who have inner ear hearing loss, called sensorineural, that cannot benefit from traditional hearing aids may be a candidate for implantation.
In normal hearing persons, the cochlea serves to transmit electrical sound signals to the hearing nerve. The hearing nerve then sends that information to the brain, and sound is heard.
In persons with sensorineural hearing loss, the cochlea is damaged. If the damage is extensive, implantation may be warranted. The implant in the cochlea would then take over the cochlea’s natural role by bypassing the damage, and electrically stimulating the hearing nerve.
These implants are not hearing aids, but similarly do not restore normal hearing. For many, only awareness of sound will be achieved. However, this may be a joyous experience for those who have never heard, or who have lost their hearing.
Sound awareness can also be helpful for safety purposes, providing awareness of alarms, sirens, or other loud warning signals. Others may achieve great communication with the implant. Each case is different.
Successful results are becoming more common as the research continues. A collaborative research effort between hearing, medical, and engineering fields, suggests that the end result will defy current expectations. Talk to your hearing healthcare professional today if you think you, a friend, or loved one may be a candidate for cochlear implants.