Sometimes our ears are blocked and we cannot hear well. But what happens if this is a permanent condition?
There are different causes for various types of hearing loss. Many people suffer hearing loss because their hair cells in the inner ear (or cochlea) are damaged.
In this case, an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear can help. The device is called ‘cochlear implant’.
How does a cochlear implant work?
Unlike hearing aids, which only make sounds louder, the cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear: they provide sound signals to the brain. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it enables many people to recognize warning signals, understand sounds in a noisy environment and hear speech in person or over the telephone.
Cochlear implants can help children and adults who:
- have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears
- have profound hearing loss in one ear with normal hearing in the other ear
- receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
- score 65% or less on sentence recognition tests done by hearing professional in the ear to be implanted
- A sound processor worn behind the ear or on the body, captures sound and turns it into digital code. The sound processor has a battery that powers the entire system.
- The sound processor transmits the digitally-coded sound through the coil on the outside of your head to the implant.
- The implant converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed in the cochlea (the inner ear).
- The implant's electrodes stimulate the cochlea's hearing nerve, which then sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.
How can I receive a cochlear implant?
The use of a cochlear implant requires a surgical procedure and a therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing. Everyone performs differently with this device therefore the decision to receive an implant should involve discussions with medical specialists, including an experienced cochlear-implant surgeon.
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