Brookings

Cochlear Implants

What is a Cochlear Implant?

  • A device for individuals with hearing loss who do not receive enough benefit from hearing aids. 
  • It works by electrically stimulating cells in the hearing nerve, which send signals to the brain to be interpreted as sound.

How does a Cochlear Implant work?

There are two components:

  • A surgically implanted auditory prosthesis with a receiver/stimulator and electrode array. 
  • Externally worn components including a speech processor (worn over the ear like a hearing aid) and transmitting coil (worn in the hair). 

Sound is picked up by the speech processor’s microphone.

  • The speech processor analyzes and digitizes sound into coded signals that are sent to the transmitting coil. 
  • The transmitter sends code across the skin to the internal implant (receiver/stimulator) via an FM signal. 
  • The internal implant converts code to electrical signals, which are sent to electrodes on the array inside cochlea to stimulate the hearing nerve. 
  • The hearing nerve sends signals to the brain that are interpreted as sound. 
  • The transmissions are rapid and sounds are heard instantly.

Who is a candidate for a Cochlear Implant?

  • An individual who does not receive enough benefit from hearing aids to understand speech well through listening alone and has significant difficulty communicating in everyday life. 
  • An individual with moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both.

What are the benefits?

It varies based on each person's hearing history. People with cochlear implants are able to:

  • Detect sounds at soft and even very soft levels. 
  • Understand speech better and become less reliant on lip reading. 
  • Use the telephone more easily. 
  • Understand better in noise. 
  • Feel less isolated and more involved in daily life.

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