A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that bypasses damaged hair cells in the ear and provides electrical stimulation directly to the auditory nerve, giving patients who are severely hearing impaired or profoundly deaf the ability to hear. It is most beneficial for those who cannot be helped with a traditional hearing aid.
How Do Cochlear Implants Work?
A cochlear implant works differently than a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so that a person with nerve damage can hear more clearly. Cochlear implants generate an electrical signal that the brain interprets as sound. The implant has an external portion that sits behind the ear, consisting of a microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter. These work in tandem with the internal components, a receiver and array of electrodes, which have been implanted in the ear.
The microphone picks up sound and sends it to the speech processor, which converts these signals to digital impulses and sends them to the transmitter. The transmitter, in turn, sends the processed audio signals to the receiver. From there, they are transmitted directly to the brain through the auditory nerve. While a cochlear implant does not cure deafness or restore hearing, it does allow a patient to perceive sound, and can help him or her to converse again.
If you are experiencing severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (the result of nerve damage to the inner ear) and can’t benefit from conventional hearing aids, you may be a prime candidate for cochlear implants.
A child that is born with severe to profound hearing loss, or a person that acquires hearing loss in this range after birth may be a cochlear implant candidate. In order for auditory pathways to develop and mature, a child needs auditory stimulation. The ability to grow and develop these auditory pathways in the brain is greatest during the first few years of life. Therefore, the earlier the child in this situation receives a cochlear implant, the more beneficial it will be. Post-implantation speech therapy with children is a crucial component in the success of cochlear implants. Patients that receive a cochlear implant after speech and language skills have fully developed would likely not require speech therapy, but will need time to become accustomed to hearing with the implant.
What Is Cochlear Mapping?
Patients often need the help of a cochlear implant specialist and audiologist throughout the adjustment and programming process. This process is called cochlear implant mapping (MAPs are programs that optimize the functionality of a cochlear implant).
- Come up with notes, questions and concerns in the weeks before your appointment. Bring this list to your audiology appointment to ensure you get the answers you need and the results you want.
- Expect to be tested. The mapping process relies on your perception and comprehension abilities to provide the best results possible. Your adjustments will be made not only based on your hearing abilities but also your speech audiometry testing results.
- Prepare to give it your all by coming to your audiologist’s office focused, hydrated, well fed and rested. Mapping is a very precise procedure that requires undivided attention from both you and your audiologist.
- Bring all your equipment, including accessories, the remote, your backup processor and anything else that might be relevant. Each of these pieces of equipment is important to the overall mapping process.
- Express your concerns. If certain sounds come across distorted, loud, quiet or otherwise abnormal, don’t hesitate to speak up! Cochlear implants require hard work from patients and loved ones, but mapping appointments are the time to get as much right as possible.
If you have cochlear implants, continuous adjustments are the best way to ensure you’re hearing and understanding your best.
Call Advanced Ear, Nose & Throat at (702) 834-5886 for more information or to schedule an appointment.