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A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted device that can enhance hearing and sensory perception for children who are hearing impaired.
In order to understand how a cochlear implant works, you will need a basic understanding of how sound is transmitted in a normally functioning ear:
Most profound hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) in nature, which means that the outer ear and middle ear are intact and functioning but most commonly the hair cells in the inner ear—or cochlea—are damaged or absent. In this case, sound waves are lost or distorted and cannot be transmitted through the hearing nerve to the brain. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged hair cells by directly stimulating the auditory nerve.
A cochlear implant is inserted through outpatient surgery at Riley at IU Health. Some CI recipients may be required to stay in the hospital overnight after the surgery.
Cochlear implantation (CI) is performed as an outpatient surgery under surgical anesthesia and typically takes about two to three hours. A surgeon gains surgical access to the inner ear with minimally invasive techniques and vigilant monitoring of neighboring nerves, thus allowing for a safe and effective operation and a short recovery time. CI recipients may be required to stay in the hospital overnight following surgery for postoperative monitoring. If there are no complications, a CI recipient can return home the morning following surgery. Following your child’s surgery, the surgeon will determine if a hospital stay will be required.
The cochlear implant is an electronic device that provides access to sound for those who do not benefit from traditional amplification, such as a hearing aid. The two-part device converts audible sounds in the outside environment into electrical signals, which are converted into meaning in your child’s brain. Though a cochlear implant will not provide “normal” hearing for your child, it can provide the means for your child to interact with his or her environment in a more meaningful way.
A CI consists of an internal and an external device. The internal device consists of a receiver/stimulator and is placed inside of the cochlea during surgery. The external device consists of a microphone and speech processor and must be worn on your child’s body or ear. The external device picks up the sound and interprets and processes the signal that is sent to the electrodes on the inside of the device.
Cochlear implantation is not the right choice for all children and families. Before deciding whether or not a cochlear implant is right for your child and your family, there are a number of factors you should carefully consider, including:
It is critical to understand that a cochlear implant is not going to immediately give your child the ability to hear and speak normally. As outlined above, major effort is required of everyone in your family.
Furthermore, there are specific criteria related to age, degree of hearing loss, insurance coverage and other factors that influence CI candidacy. The CI team will more fully explain whether or not your child is a candidate for implantation based on his or her specific situation and the above factors.