Some people can hear better with the help of traditional hearing aids, but others with more severe hearing may receive help from implants or surgery. If you have a severe hearing loss involving the sensory cells found in your inner ear and do not receive help from hearing aids, cochlear implant surgery can help you hear better. Your doctor or hearing professional will decide whether you can benefit from a hearing implant.
What is a Cochlear Implant?
Different than a hearing aid, these small medical devices work to stimulate the auditory nerve and provide the same sensation sound produces in a normal ear. Hearing implants don’t restore any of your hearing damage, but they do mimic sounds by bypassing the damaged part of the inner ear.
Thus, this electronic device doesn’t make sounds louder like hearing aids, hearing implants perform the function of the damaged part of the ear, or in this case, the cochlea. Usually, there is some damage to the hair cells in the inner ear preventing sounds to reach the nerve, and these devices were created to skip around the problem.
Your implant will work well depending on factors such as:
How Hearing Implants Help the Cochlea
A hearing professional, also known as an audiologist, can help you figure out if you can benefit from a cochlear implant. Different hearing implants are designed for distinct types of hearing problems, so cochlear implants physically work around damaged sections of the ear and stimulate the cochlear nerve.
The device is fitted to both the inside and outside of your head, and the two pieces work together to help you hear. A microphone and speech processor is located on the piece behind your ear. It picks up the sound and digitally sends a signal to the receiver under your skin that then signals electrodes to your cochlea and triggers the nerves to notice sounds. A magnet is used to keep the pieces together.
Who Should Have Cochlear Implant Surgery?
Cochlear implants help people of all ages with moderate to severe sensorineural hearing loss who also display one or more of the following:
Deciding whether an implant is right for you is not an effortless process. Candidacy for an implant is determined by your hearing professional and is decided on a case-by-case basis.
Paying for a Hearing Device
Implants are often more expensive than traditional hearing aids, especially when you consider the cost of the surgery and visits afterward to adjust the device. Costs can be very high, and the risk of surgery alone make this an option you should only pursue if the benefits outweigh the risk. However, most insurance companies can help you cover the price if you’re covered.
Medicare may also be available to you, as it covers prosthetic devices in severe hearing conditions. The rules can change, so it’s important to see if you qualify for reimbursement.
What to Expect After an Implant
After the surgery, your doctors will show you how to adjust your implant and listen to sound using the device. Some patients take longer than others to adjust to the new system, and you may need extra time to learn how to work the technology.
Adult patients often notice their hearing and communication skills immediately improve while kids take a little more time to benefit from a cochlear device. The brain needs time to learn how to understand electrical sounds in children, thanks to the way the implant transmits sound signals.
Expect to return to your doctors for regular checkups and hearing tests to adjust when needed. Once your implant is right, you may reconnect with sounds you couldn’t hear before surgery and enjoy being able to live a relatively normal life.
If you suffer from severe hearing loss and a hearing aid does not seem to help you at all, you may be able to hear with the help of a hearing implant. People who haven’t been able to hear well since childhood can even find a nearly normal life with the help of a surgical implant. As technology continues to grow, newer and more accessible options could soon hit the market as well, which could mean some exciting developments soon.