Have you tried everything to help you hear, or are you afraid you’ll never hear again? If you have severe or profound hearing loss, a traditional hearing aid might not be enough to help you hear, but there is another option. A cochlear implant may be the solution you’ve been looking for. It will help you hear the sounds around you and restore your ability to understand speech.
For those with severe or profound hearing loss, a cochlear implant can partially restore hearing. Unlike hearing aids that work to amplify sounds, cochlear implants bypass the damaged inner ear altogether and send sound signals straight to the brain. The implants are electronic devices that have both internal and external components that pick up on the sounds around you and send these sounds to your brain, helping you hear. Many people have cochlear implants in both ears rather than just one, as bilateral hearing is important for speech clarity, sound localization, and spatial awareness.
Cochlear implants work very differently than traditional hearing aids. The external part of the cochlear implant sits behind the ear, and contains a microphone and a sound processor. The microphone picks up on all the sounds in the environment and the speech processor analyzes and digitizes these sounds. The digital signals then travel through a small wire to the transmitter, which sits just over the internal part of the device. Its job is to send the signals to the receiver that’s implanted just under the skin behind the ear. The receiver converts the digital signals into electrical signals and sends them along electrodes placed in the cochlea, or inner ear. These electrodes directly stimulate the auditory nerve, send the signals to the brain where you hear them as sound.
Cochlear implants are recommended for those who have profound hearing loss and have an extremely difficult time communicating, and they’re very successful for both adults and children. Do you have sensorineural hearing loss, or hearing loss that has destroyed the hair cells in the inner ear? If you have very low hearing test scores, and have received limited benefit from traditional hearing devices, then you are a good candidate for a cochlear implant.
To be considered for a cochlear implant, it’s also important that you’re motivated to participate in follow up sessions. Rehabilitation often takes some time, as sounds will seem very different than you remember. Through small adjustments and rehabilitation training, the brain will become adept at interpreting these new auditory signals.
Cochlear implants improve speech comprehension, and you’ll be able to hear clearly without relying on visual cues or lip reading. Following conversations in places with background noise will be easier, and you’ll hear sounds you couldn’t hear at all before the implant. You’ll also be more aware of your environment, and recognize normal, everyday environmental sounds like birds, dogs, alarms, sirens, or shouts, meaning you’ll be a lot safer. Many of our clients with cochlear implants report that they’re now able to talk on the phone, and enjoy music once again.
At Pacific Northwest Audiology, our team of hearing Doctors will be with you every step of the way, determining if an implant is right for you and making sure you fully understand the process. Dr. Li-Korotky AuD, PhD and Dr. Alison Benner AuD have more than 50 years of combined research and clinical experience, and we’ll help you make the best decision for your hearing health.
Before recommending a cochlear implant, we perform in-depth pre-surgical testing and exams. After surgery, we follow up with implant programming and activation, making sure the implants match your hearing needs. It takes some time and a lot of training to learn how to hear with cochlear implants, but the effort is well worth the rewards! We will provide ongoing therapy and support to help you learn how to use the new technology to interact effectively with your world.