What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted medical device for people with significant, permanent hearing loss. It is the first implantable technology able to restore a human sense - hearing. Unlike a hearing aid that simply makes sound louder, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear and uses electrical stimulation to directly stimulate the hearing nerve.
A cochlear implant system has two parts:
- The implant, which is placed beneath the skin at the time of surgery. The implant has an electrode array that is inserted into the cochlear (inner ear) to electrically stimulate the hearing nerve.
- The sound processor, which is worn behind the ear in much the same way as a standard behind the ear hearing aid.
How does it work?
Is it right for you?
A cochlear implant may be of benefit if you have a severe to profound sensorineural (inner ear) hearing loss in either one or both ears and you gain limited speech understanding from conventional hearing aids.
A cochlear implant may be suitable, therefore, if you have experienced a progressive or sudden onset hearing loss in both ears but also if you have single-sided deafness.
Your adaptation to electrical stimulation and the benefit you may receive from a cochlear implant will be influenced by your hearing history. It is helpful if you have had some hearing in the past, used hearing aids and developed spoken language skills.
Is a cochlear implant suitable for single-sided deafness?
Advances in hearing implant technology and clinical evidence supporting the benefit of hearing with two ears means a cochlear implant is now a suitable treatment option for many people with Single-Sided Deafness (SSD).
Unlike a bone conduction implant or a Cros hearing aid for SSD, a cochlear implant uses the hearing pathway of the deafened ear. This means you will be hearing sound on your deafened side rather than transferring sound to your better hearing ear.
By restoring hearing to your deafened ear, you will be able to hear and listen with both ears. Over time you will adapt and learn to integrate information from both ears for more natural hearing. This may allow you to hear and understand speech better in noisy environments, locate where sounds are coming from and improve your ease of listening.
What can you expect?
Many people with a cochlear implant are able to hear more easily, understand speech better and enjoy:
- Improved awareness of environmental sound
- Improved ease of listening
- Improved confidence in conversation
- Improved listening in social situations and in the workplace
- Improved hearing over distance
Additional benefit may also be gained when a cochlear implant is used in conjunction with lip-reading and/or a hearing aid in the opposite ear.