Sometimes hearing loss progresses to the point that hearing aids are no longer enough. For those people, cochlear implants may be an option. Cochlear implant technology has improved so much over the years, that in many of those cases, we can improve hearing better than hearing aids ever could. Hearing HealthCare Centers is proud to be part of the Cochlear Provider Network to provide CI services locally. We are happy to partner with the surgeons at Denver Ear Associates who have many years of experience performing implants on thousands of patients in the Denver area and all over Colorado.
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted device that can help people with profound or severe hearing loss hear again. There are two parts to a cochlear implant: a small piece behind the ear that looks kind of like a hearing aid and a piece that is implanted into the cochlea surgically. While traditional hearing aids have advanced considerably in the last few years, but they aren’t able to help everyone. A small percentage of people with significant hearing loss may need implants. Cochlear implants don’t rely on damaged portions of the ear, they directly stimulate the auditory nerve, which sends signals directly to the brain. This is an entirely different experience of hearing and takes time to become accustomed to. However, for those who have severe hearing loss or are deaf, it can help them function better.
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Who benefits from cochlear implants?
Cochlear implants may benefit adults and children who have moderately severe to profound hearing loss or are deaf. They are often a great solution for people who are no longer properly served by hearing aids.
Less than 6 percent of people in America who could benefit from a cochlear implant currently have one. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services more than 188,000 people worldwide have received implants. In the United States, roughly 41,000 adults and 26,000 children have them.
People who lose their hearing as an adult often do well with cochlear implants because they can relate the signal provided by an implant to sounds they remember. With practice and auditory training, these adults are often able to understand speech again. Even very young children who experienced significant hearing loss before they acquired language skills are able to learn how to understand and respond to speech after receiving an implant and intensive therapy.
The FDA has a series of requirements to determine who is a good candidate. To find out if cochlear implants are right for you, give us a call and set up your hearing test.
How do cochlear implants work?
Cochlear implants require surgery and a period of intensive auditory training after the procedure. Contrary to what some people believe, cochlear implant surgery is NOT brain surgery. An incision is made behind the ear and an array of electrodes is threaded into the cochlea, or the hearing organ. A magnet is also implanted directly under the skin to allow the internal processor to receive input from the external processor that hangs on the ear and picks up sound.
That array of electrodes, when connected to the external processor, allows the auditory signal to directly stimulate the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged hearing organ. Often that leads to much better outcomes than are possible with hearing aids because we are not relying on the damaged cochlea to send the auditory signals to the brain.
The surgery itself is usually done on an outpatient basis in under two hours.
Is a cochlear implant right for you? Come talk to us about your options.
First, a hearing evaluation would be performed to determine if you meet the threshold requirements for an implant. If so, the second part of the evaluation, which may be performed on the same day or at a subsequent appointment, is done using Sound Field speakers in a sound booth to determine your ability to hear and understand speech in your best aided condition. That may mean using your properly fit hearing aids, or using powerful hearing aids in the office that are able to best match your hearing prescription.
If you meet the requirements following the above testing, we will refer you for one of a few visits to the surgeons at Denver Ear Associates. They will examine you and determine if you appear to be a good candidate for surgery. If so, they will work with you to determine insurance coverage for the surgery and the device, get clearance from your PCP to undergo surgery, and schedule your surgery!
What happens after surgery?
As the surgery is quite short and done on an outpatient basis, it is likely that you will go home the same day. After a period of approximately 2 weeks of healing, you will schedule a ‘cochlear implant activation’ appointment with Hearing HealthCare Centers. On that day, we will do some measurements and turn the processor on! Watch the videos below to see how exciting that day is! You will be taught how to use the processor and given instructions on how to start an auditory training program that will enable your brain to start to assimilate the new sounds it is hearing through the implant. Other than 1-2 follow up visits with DEA, all your follow up care will be provided in our office.
Here is a wonderful, tear-jerking video of a current patient who was recently fit with two cochlear implants! Here is the activation of the first cochlear implant.