Cochlear Implants for Hearing Loss

The George Washington University Hospital offers cochlear implants for patients with hearing loss.

A cochlear implant is a small, electronic device that can provide sound perception to a person who is deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. The device can be particularly useful for people who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids.

Cochlear implants have two major components:

  • An outer component that captures sound, processes it and then transmits it through a magnetic coil to the internal component.
  • An internal component that is implanted under the skin and transmits the sound information from the outer component to the inner ear.

To learn more about how cochlear implants work, watch the short video below:


 

 

Video Courtesy of MED-EL


Who is a good candidate?

Children who are born deaf and never develop language (pre-lingual deaf) do very well with cochlear implants as long as they are implanted very young. Adults who have never heard and have no language skills do not perform as well with an implant and usually would not develop language abilities. The main reason to do an implantation for this group is better sound awareness and improved lip-reading. Adults who lose hearing after developing language (post-lingual deaf) usually do very well with cochlear implants.

Another factor is cause of deafness. Patients who have lost hearing due to cochlear toxicity tend to perform very well with cochlear implants. However, patients with a history of meningitis may not be ideal candidates. In many of these patients, the inside of the cochlea is scarred and implantation is more challenging.

There is no age limit to implantation, however, good cognitive function is necessary for successful rehabilitation.

Podcast: Advancements of Cochlear Implants for the Hearing Impaired

Ashkan Monfared, MD, discusses the advancements of cochlear implants for restoring hearing in patients who have lost the ability to hear naturally. Dr. Monfared explains which individuals are candidates for this surgery, the pre- and post-operative measures taken, and recovery considerations based on the wide spectrum of patients who are eligible for this treatment. He also shares information on the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Listen to the podcast

Learn more: Ear, nose and throat

Life after implantation

The surgery for implantation is only the first step in the long process of re-training the brain to learn how to hear again. Most patients develop excellent hearing ability compared to pre-implantation, however, the implant does not restore normal hearing. A majority of cochlear implant patients are able to use the phone without difficulty but are not able to appreciate music.

Newer implants offer many advantages such as special programming for adverse hearing environments and some are waterproof so patients can keep them on while in the shower or in the pool.

Latest advances

There have been major advancements in protecting patients’ residual hearing during implantation. Depending on the circumstance and level of hearing, in many cases, residual hearing can be protected. Because of this, new hybrid devices are available that use a hearing aid for certain frequencies and an implant for others to amplify and process the sound.

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