How Do Cochlear Implants Work?
Individuals who are deaf or have severe hearing loss can often benefit from a cochlear implant. First approved for adult use in the 1990s, this medical device stimulates the person's auditory nerve, allowing them to interpret sounds in the environment, understand speech, and communicate with others.
If you or a loved one is hard of hearing, learn how cochlear implants work, and explore whether this type of treatment may be an option.
Components of a Cochlear Implant
The cochlear implant has four main parts. The external portion of the implant goes behind the ear and includes a microphone that transmits sound from the environment into the device's speech processor. This component captures the sounds and sends them to a receiver or stimulator the surgeon implants behind the person's ear. The receiver converts these signals into electric impulses that enter the group of electrodes implanted in the cochlea of the inner ear.
How the Device Works
When the electrodes within the cochlea receive the signals, they convert them into sounds the brain can understand. The implant technology bypasses the damaged part of the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve directly. Although the resulting sounds are not the same as those perceived by a hearing person, they do create recognizable speech and environmental noise. However, most people take about a year to learn to understand others after they receive a cochlear implant.
Candidates for the Cochlear Implant
You or a family member may benefit from a cochlear implant if hearing aids are unable to address the extent of your hearing loss. Specialized hearing tests can determine whether you are a candidate for cochlear implants in either one or both ears. You must commit to hearing rehabilitation after receiving the implant to interpret the sounds you will hear with the device. Wearing the processor whenever you are awake will help facilitate this process and help you become more comfortable with the implants.