For some people with a permanent type of hearing loss called sensorineural hearing loss where the hearing organ or the cochlea is impacted, a hearing aid does not give them benefits. When a hearing aid does not give a person any benefit they may qualify as a candidate for a cochlear implant. So how do you know if you’re a candidate? What is different about a cochlear implant from a hearing aid? 

 

Cochlear Implant

There are two pieces to a cochlear implant. The first is a surgically implanted device that is fed through the middle ear and inserted into the cochlea with another magnet component that is placed behind the ear in a pocket drilled into the skull. Although this seems highly invasive, cochlear implant surgery is usually an outpatient procedure, not brain surgery. The second piece of the cochlear implant is called the processor. This is an external piece that attaches to the internal piece through a magnet. When the external process is not attached to the internal magnet a person does not have access to sound.

The implant directly stimulates the auditory nerve through electrical energy through an electrode array inserted in the cochlea. The device is not a cure for hearing loss and requires many programming appointments with an audiologist and aural rehabilitation to understand sound because the nerve is being stimulated in a new way the brain needs to make sense of these new stimulations. 

 

Candidacy 

A person must have a specific degree and type of hearing loss. It is also important to note that there are other pieces to candidacy like when the hearing loss occurred, the duration without hearing, the etiology of hearing loss, the ability to make appointments, etc. To determine if someone is audiologically a candidate they should schedule a candidacy evaluation with a cochlear implant audiologist.

 

The Current Companies

Currently, there are 3 FDA-approved cochlear implant companies:  Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas, and MED-EL. 

 

For the most part, these companies’ internal pieces are similar. To determine the best company to choose for yourself or a loved one it is best to talk with a surgeon or audiologist who specializes in cochlear implants.

 

Important takeaways 

  • Two pieces of the cochlear implant: external and internal 
  • There are 3 FDA-approved companies
  • An implant is not a cure for hearing loss 
  • There are many components of being a candidate 
  • An implant is a new way for the brain to listen to the sound 
  • It takes a long time to make sense of these electrical stimulations 

 

If you have questions about your hearing visit your local hearing care professional for an audiological exam.