A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is partially implanted surgically into the cochlea, the hearing organ of the inner ear. It uses electrical current to bypass damaged or missing portions of the inner ear and stimulates remaining auditory hearing nerve fibers. A microphone, processor, and transmitting coil are worn externally to provide the power and signal to the internal device.
If you (or your child) has a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and don’t get much benefit from hearing aids, you might be a candidate for a cochlear implant. This means a hearing loss in both ears of greater than 70dB and poor speech discrimination (less than 50% correct on a sentence recognition test) in the better-hearing ear. To determine whether you are a candidate, you’ll have to have a complete evaluation, including hearing tests and an MRI scan of the ear.
Children as young as 6 months of age can receive a cochlear implant, usually after repeated hearing testing and a trial with hearing aids in both ears and intensive auditory training. It’s important to ensure that hearing aids can’t provide the child the same amount of benefit as an implant.
The surgeons at Melbourne Ear Specialists routinely perform cochlear implant surgery. It’s done using general anesthesia, but can be performed as an outpatient procedure or may require a night in the hospital. If you are a candidate for bilateral cochlear implants (implants on both sides), the implantation surgery may be performed for both ears at the same time. Some people get a cochlear implant in one ear and then later choose to have the other side implanted as well.