Image Courtesy of Cochlear Americas
Cochlear implants may be the next step for our patients when their hearing aids are not providing enough assistance and their hearing struggles are starting to impact their quality of life. Many people start by wearing hearing aids, however, if hearing loss progresses, they may need something more. To improve hearing performance and help patients understand more clearly, we may need to consider a solution that helps the patients hear their best.
Many patients start with a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other that may provide a richer, more natural hearing experience. This combination is referred to as bimodal hearing.
How A Cochlear Implant Works
The cochlear implant has an external portion that sits behind the ear and an internal part that is surgically placed under the skin.
There are several parts to a cochlear implant, including a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter and receiver/stimulator, and an electrode array. These components work together to provide useful representations of sounds in the environment to help patients understand speech. A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing.
In patients with normal hearing, sound is collected by the external ear, funneled down to the eardrum, and sound waves are then carried through the middle ear by the ossicles (middle ear bones). The sound pressure waves are then converted to nerve signals within the cochlea (the inner ear). A cochlear implant directly stimulates the auditory nerve, bypassing the normal sound conduction mechanism through the external, middle, and inner ear.
Cochlear Implant Eligibility
You may be a candidate for a cochlear implant if you have a significant hearing loss, you do not perform well with hearing aids, and your hearing nerve has difficulty with processing sounds. Our providers can perform a battery of tests to confirm your eligibility.
Following candidacy testing, the patient sees an otologist, or ear surgeon, to discuss surgery. It is typically an outpatient procedure.
Following surgery, the patients will see the audiologist at our clinic for activation, programming, adjustments, and follow-up visits.
Cochlear Implant Services Provided at Coates Hearing Clinic
At Coates Hearing Clinic, our audiologists are specially trained to provide candidacy testing for cochlear implants through a battery of tests. This can include a hearing evaluation, hearing aid verification, and testing, testing in background noise, etc. Most insurances have a benefit for this type of testing and device if the patient is a candidate for this type of treatment.
At Coates Hearing Clinic, we also provide other cochlear implant services. In addition to the pre-surgical testing, our providers do initial activations, post-surgical follow-up appointments, repairs, programming, and follow-up testing to measure progress. We work with all 3 cochlear implant manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas and Med-El.
If you would like to find out if you are eligible for a cochlear implant, call Coates Hearing Clinic at (919) 300-5438 to schedule an appointment.
Cochlear Implant FAQs
A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The more severe the hearing loss, the greater the hearing aid amplification needed.
A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve, sending signals to the brain to recognize them as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn.
A cochlear implant offers several benefits to patients, including:
- Ability to hear speech without needing visual cues such as reading lips
- Recognition of normal, everyday environmental sounds
- Ability to listen in a noisy environment
- Ability to find where sounds originate
- Ability to hear television programs, music, and telephone conversations
According to a 2019 study, results indicated a high success rate of 92 percent reservation of residual hearing, with half of the sample exhibiting complete preservation in cochlear implant recipients across all frequencies postoperatively. A total postoperative hearing loss was found in only 8 percent of cochlear implantees across all frequencies.
The surgical skill and experience of the surgeon are evidenced by the minimal intraoperative complications and the high success rate of hearing preservation, implying progress in surgical techniques.