How Cochlear Implants Can Help Adults With Hearing Loss
October 07, 2021
Many people have seen videos on social media of children who are deaf or severely hard of hearing receiving cochlear implants and hearing for the first time. But cochlear implants also have another useful purpose – to help adults with hearing loss.
You don’t have to have total hearing loss to get a cochlear implant. But if you start struggling to hear and understand speech in noise even with your hearing aids, that is a sign you should seek further evaluation, says Alejandro Rivas, MD, Division Chief of Otology and Neurotology and Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at University Hospitals.
“When people start not understanding what people say, that’s when a cochlear implant is useful,” Dr. Rivas says.
How Cochlear Implants Work
Cochlear implants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the mid-1980s to treat hearing loss in adults.
A cochlear implant works differently from a hearing aid. Hearing aids make sounds louder. Cochlear implants, however, are designed to mimic the function of a healthy inner ear or cochlea, which is the hearing organ. A cochlear implants replaces the function of damaged sensory hair cells inside the cochlea.
A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device. The implant consists of two parts: an external processor that sits behind the ear and a second component that is surgically placed under the skin with a slim cable that connects to the cochlea.
A tiny magnet in the external piece transmits sound to a magnet in the implanted component. The signal is passed via the cable to the cochlea. The hearing nerve fibers in the cochlea pick up the signals and send them to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound.
Different From Normal Hearing
Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, a cochlear implant allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment and understand speech in-person or over the telephone.
With a cochlear implant, people learn to associate the signals from the implant with sounds they remember, including speech, without requiring any visual cues such as those provided by lip reading or sign language.
To receive a cochlear implant, you will need to have a computed tomography scan and an evaluation to determine if the device is right for you, Dr. Rivas says.
“At University Hospitals, we try to get all this done in one or two days so that you know quickly if that’s what you need, and then we can move forward with surgical implantation, if that’s what you desire,” Dr. Rivas says.
Cochlear implant surgery is a fairly routine outpatient procedure that usually takes between two to four hours under general anesthesia. Two to four weeks after surgery, you will meet with an audiologist to activate your implant.
Related LinksUniversity Hospitals is home to one of the nation’s largest cochlear implant programs, which ranks consistently in the top 10 in the nation for total number of cochlear implants performed. A board-certified neurotologist, a physician who specializes in ear disease, ear surgery and neurological ear problems, leads our highly qualified cochlear implant team. Learn more about help for profound hearing loss at University Hospitals.
Tags: Hearing Loss