Hearing Blog

Cochlear Implants; Past, Present, and Future

Cochlear Implants; Past, Present, and Future

Hearing Aids are able to help many individuals with hearing loss. However, there are some cases where patients do not receive benefit from hearing aids due to the severity of their hearing loss. In these situations, one possible solution to consider is a Cochlear Implant. A Cochlear Implant is a surgically inserted device that bypasses the damaged inner ear structures and sends an electrical signal through the hearing nerve to the brain, so the recipient can hear. Cochlear Implants were approved for use in the United States in the 1980s and Ear, Nose and Throat Associates has had a Cochlear Implant program since 2000.

A cochlear implant has two main parts that work together to help a patient access sound. The first part is a speech processor that is typically worn behind the ear. The processor uses a microphone to pick up voices and other environmental sounds. Once the sound is picked up the processor analyses the sound and sends a signal through the scalp via a headpiece that is magnetically coupled to the internal implant. The implant consists of a receiver and electrode array that is inserted into the cochlea. When the electrode contacts are stimulated, a patient is able to hear different pitches. The sound a patient hears with a cochlear implant can be very different than regular hearing as the recipient is hearing by way of an electrical signal. Many patients describe what they initially hear like “Mickey Mouse” or “Donald Duck.” As time goes on, their brains are able to learn to hear with this new signal and it becomes more familiar or natural.

There are 3 FDA approved Cochlear Implants in the United States. Our office provides services for two of these companies; Advanced Bionics and Cochlear Americas. Both companies offer a variety of products that are designed to connect patients to the world around them. Developments in technology have allowed recepients to gain access to more sounds through accessories and Bluetooth connectivity. In the past, Cochlear Implant recipients could not wear their processors in water, but today implants can be used around water and even worn while swimming. Cochlear Implant companies are continuously researching ways to improve their products. Technological advances are allowing processors to become smaller, more efficient, and give patients better access to the hearing world.

Not every patient with a hearing loss is a cochlear implant candidate. There are both FDA and Medicare guidelines that help determine if a patient is a candidate for this surgery. Our Cochlear Implant team performs candidacy evaluations and makes recommendations based on the results. If you have questions about Cochlear Implants, please contact our office at 260-469-8117 to learn more.