Question: My hearing aids have worked for many years, but recently they haven’t been as effective. Is it time for a cochlear implant?
Answer: You may want to consider a cochlear implant if you have severe hearing loss or if you have trouble understanding speech while wearing your hearing aids. If your hearing aids are no longer effective, a cochlear implant may help you hear better. Check with a hearing specialist or an ENT (ear, nose, and throat doctor) for further evaluation.
Question: What could be causing my hearing abilities to change?
Answer: After a person passes into his/ her forties, hearing ability begins to decline. Most often, this is caused by changes in the inner ear. It can also be attributed to genetics and noise exposure.
Question: How does a cochlear implant work?
Answer: This small electronic device is most often used for people with severe hearing loss. Instead of amplifying sounds, as does a hearing aid, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged inner ear and stimulates the auditory nerve. The cochlear implant generates signals and sends them through the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain then recognizes the signals as sound.
This device works using parts that are implanted as well as external parts. The sound processor, worn externally, works as a miniature computer. The internal part, the electrode array, is inserted into the cochlea of the inner ear by an ENT surgeon.
Question: How long does the procedure take?
Answer: The procedure can take from 90 minutes to 2 hours for each implant. Usually the patient is given a general anesthetic during the operation. It is typically an outpatient procedure, which allows the patient to go home the same day as the surgery.
Question: How many cochlear implant procedures have been done?
Answer: According to the US Food and Drug Administration, approximately 219,000 people have cochlear implants worldwide. In the US, this is roughly 43,000 adults and 28,000 children who have the devices.
Question: Will I hear the same with the implant as I did with hearing aids that were working well?
Answer: If you are considering a cochlear implant, it is important to understand that hearing with the implant and normal hearing are not the same. Those who have experienced both describe sounds as being very different. Some people compare the implant sound to an electronic voice or even the voice of Mickey Mouse. Of course, these descriptions vary across patients.
Question: Should I have only one or both ears implanted?
Answer: While many patients opt to have only one ear implanted, the occurrence of bilateral implants is increasingly common. You may opt for a bilateral implant so that sound localization improves. Patients who have the implant in both ears have reported that detection of where sound is coming from is easier.