By Dr Komal Arora
If your answer is yes and you are using a hearing aid, now could be the time to explore your hearing care options. Even with your hearing aid if you still have to ask people to repeat themselves in quiet situations or if you depend on lip reading to understand conversations, then you may be a good candidate for a Cochlear Implant.
Hearing aids are helpful for the majority of people with hearing loss however for those who have a moderately severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, even the most advanced and powerful hearing aids may not be enough. In such cases, implantable hearing solutions such as Cochlear Implants can be beneficial in restoring hearing, for both children and adults.
The multichannel cochlear implant was invented by Australian Professor Graeme Clark, who performed the first Cochlear Implant at The Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital in 1978. Since then, over 400,000 people of all ages around the world have benefited from life changing hearing implant technology from Cochlear.
How does a Cochlear Implant work?
Damage to the tiny hair cells in the part of the inner ear called the cochlea, leads to sensorineural hearing loss. Because of this damage, sound cannot reach the auditory (hearing) nerve. A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that bypasses the damaged hair cells and provides direct electrical stimulation to the hearing nerve in the inner ear.
A cochlear implant has an external sound processor andinternal surgically implanted parts (a receiver and electrodes). The sound processor looks like a behind-the-ear hearing aid. It picks up sounds, just like a hearing aid microphone does, and sends the coded signals to the implanted receiver placed just under the skin, behind the ear.
The receiver takes the coded electrical signals and delivers them along the array of electrodes in the inner ear. The electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve fibres, which deliver signals to the brain, and sound is heard.
Crucial considerations for children with hearing loss:
When considering the solutions that could help your child, it’s important to take into account all the options and opportunities. Hearing aids can help most children with mild to moderate hearing loss. However for children with a moderately severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, even the most powerful and advanced hearing aids may not help. When this is the case, an implantable solution may be a good option for your child.
For young children who are deaf or severely hard-of-hearing, implantation while young exposes them to sounds during this crucial early period of their lives when they are developing speech and language skills.
Helping adults with hearing loss
The sooner you receive a Cochlear implant, the sooner you can start hearing, interacting and enjoying your life to the full. Instead of the isolation and loneliness that often accompanies significant hearing loss, you can look forward to rediscovering the activities that you may have abandoned because of your hearing. You won’t just reconnect with the world of sound, but with a whole wide world of enjoyment and opportunity.
Receiving a Cochlear Implant
The team at a specialist cochlear implant centre assesses whether a cochlear implant is the right solution for a hearing impaired person. The assessment involves audiological, medical and psychological tests. Additional assessments on speech and language development are conducted for children.
The surgical procedure takes 1-3 hours. Tens of thousands of Cochlear Implant surgeries are performed every year in a straightforward surgical procedure. You can discuss any concerns you may have regarding the surgery with your surgeon and hearing care team.
Within a few weeks of surgery, your audiologist will be able to activate your cochlear implant. They will program the device to suit your unique hearing needs, fine tuning the settings over a few follow-up sessions.
Outcomes and benefits
Research has shown that people with Cochlear Implants achieve an average of 80% sentence understanding, compared with 10% sentence understanding for hearing aids. They can hear better in noisy environments, hear better on the phone, have greater music appreciation and they feel safer, as they can hear alarms and vehicles. They learn to associate the sounds they hear via their Cochlear Implant System with the sounds they remember.
How can you get a Cochlear Implant?
The Cochlear Implant Clinic at the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital is a great place to start, providing surgery and pre and post-operative care. Over 2,000 patients have received a Cochlear Implant through the clinic.You can also speak to your GP or your hearing care professional about Cochlear hearing solutions.
It’s your time to reconnect with your family, friends and community and get back what you’ve been missing.
(Dr Komal Arora (PhD) is a Senior Research Audiologist at Cochlear Limited.)