Cochlear Implant Program

Idaho Ear Clinic Cochlear Implant Program

Idaho Ear Clinic's Cochlear Implant Team is a dedicated team of hearing specialists who provide the highest level of diagnostic, surgical, and rehabilitation services in all areas of cochlear implantation. The staff consists a board certified neurotologic surgeon, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and insurance reimbursement specialists.

Our philosophy is that the decision to recommend a cochlear implant can only be made by a multi-disciplinary team of specialists and a well informed patient or parent.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. An implant has the following parts:

  • A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
  • A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
  • A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
  • An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different regions of the auditory nerve.
  • An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.)

An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.

How does a cochlear implant work?

A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and understand speech in person or over the telephone.

 

  1. 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.
  2. The sound processor transmits the digitally-coded sound through the coil on the outside of your head to the implant.
  3. The implant converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed in the cochlea (the inner ear).
  4. The implant's electrodes stimulate the cochlea's hearing nerve, which then sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

Cochlear Implant

Who gets cochlear implants?

Children and adults who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing can be fitted for cochlear implants.

For young children who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing, using a cochlear implant while they are young exposes them to sounds during an optimal period to develop speech and language skills.

Research has shown that when these children receive a cochlear implant followed by intensive therapy before they are 18 months old, they are better able to hear, comprehend sound and music, and speak than their peers who receive implants when they are older. Studies have also shown that eligible children who receive a cochlear implant before 18 months of age develop language skills at a rate comparable to children with normal hearing, and many succeed in mainstream classrooms.

Some adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life can also benefit from cochlear implants. They learn to associate the signals from the implant with sounds they remember, including speech, without requiring any visual cues such as those provided by lipreading or sign language.

How does someone receive a cochlear implant?

Use of a cochlear implant requires both a surgical procedure and significant therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing. Not everyone performs at the same level with this device. The decision to receive an implant should involve discussions with Dr. Crawford, who is an experienced cochlear-implant surgeon.

The process can be expensive. For example, a person’s health insurance may cover the expense, but not always. Some individuals may choose not to have a cochlear implant for a variety of personal reasons. Surgical implantations are almost always safe, although complications are a risk factor, just as with any kind of surgery. An additional consideration is learning to interpret the sounds created by an implant. This process takes time and practice. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are frequently involved in this learning process. Prior to implantation, all of these factors need to be considered.

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