A cochlear implant is an electronic device that bypasses the damaged portions of the inner ear and directly stimulates the inner ear. A portion of the device is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear with an electrode array that goes into the cochlea. There is a processor that is worn on the outside and it magnetically sends the auditory signal to the inside portion of the device that converts the sounds into electrical impulses.
The exciting thing about cochlear implants is that we see people continue to improve over time. They go from barely functioning with their hearing aids to having normal hearing awareness with a cochlear implant. This is where it is important to understand the difference between hearing and listening/understanding. Just because someone has normal hearing awareness doesn’t mean they can carry on a conversation. It just means that they can hear sounds at normal volume levels. On the audiogram, their hearing thresholds go from the bottom (loud) part of the graph to the upper levels (soft) of the graph.
We determine if a patient is a candidate for a cochlear implant based on testing with the best fit hearing aid. If the patient meets the criteria, then they are referred to a surgeon to determine if they are a surgical candidate. If so, they come back to our clinic after they have been implanted so that we can activate the device.