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What is a cochlear implant?

Will a cochlear implant restore normal hearing for deaf people?

No. A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. It is a communication tool and not a cure for deafness. When hearing functions normally, parts of the ear convert sound waves into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent to the brain where they are recognized as sound. A cochlear implant stimulates that process.

How long have cochlear implants been available?

The US – FDA first approved cochlear implants for adults in 1985 and for children in 1990. More than two lakh individuals have received cochlear implants worldwide.

Who is eligible to receive an implant?

Are all children with hearing loss candidates for cochlear implants? In general, adults who have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and have benefited only minimally from hearing aids may qualify as candidates for cochlear implantation.
Children who have severe to profound bilateral hearing loss are potential candidates if hearing aids don’t help sufficiently for the development of speech and language.

What results can be expected from a cochlear implant?

It is very important that the implant recipient, and the family, particularly in the case of a young child, have an understanding of cochlear implants and realistic expectations regarding the use of the device.
As with any medical procedure, the results of implantation cannot be predicted prior to surgery and recipients may experience a wide range of outcomes. For individuals who lost their hearing after learning to speak, the perception of speech and sounds after implantation may initially seem quite different from what they remember. After using the cochlear implant for several months or more, these individuals often report that they perceive speech to be more natural or closer to their memory of familiar sounds.

Are cochlear implants successful for young children?

The literature on outcomes consistently shows that many young children receive significant developmental benefits from cochlear implants in areas such as auditory, speech, language and social learning. There is a wide range in performance outcomes, making it challenging to predict how individual children will respond. Implantation prior to 3 years of age appears to provide greater benefit than implantation at later ages.

What is the minimum age at which a child can be implanted?

A child can be implanted after the age of 6 months provided, he or she fulfils the criteria for implantation.

Once an individual receives an implant, is he/she finished with the process?

Wearing a cochlear implant is a lifetime commitment, and requires the recipient to maintain and care for the implant. After an individual receives the implant, he or she must return to the centre for a number of follow-up services, including the fitting of the external components of the implant; activating and programming of the implant and its microphone, speech processor and transmitter; necessary adjustments and reprogramming and periodic checkups. In addition, recipients must undergo rehabilitation services with members of the team. Children often require years of extensive aural rehabilitation.

What type of professionals compose the implant team?

Audiologists, speech-language pathologists, ENT surgeons, medical specialists, psychologists and counselors.

What does an implant sound like?

This is a tough question to answer as the answer can vary for each patient. A cochlear implant does not replicate what we hear. They also sound different from how a hearing aid amplifies sound. Some of the most common descriptions we hear from patients are “beeps “, “mechanical”, “cartoonish”, “alien-like”, “echo-like”, “like someone talking underwater”, “like someone talking with marbles in their mouth” etc. The important thing is to realize that the sounds will get better over time and often odd sound quality will change as the brain better understands what it is hearing. There is no way to predict how an individual will respond to a cochlear implant. It is helpful to talk to as many current cochlear implant users as possible to better understand how it works.

Can people with cochlear implants identify environmental sounds as well as speech?

Cochlear implants provide a wide range of sound information. They will probably hear most sounds of medium to high loudness. Patients often report that they can hear footsteps, slamming of doors, ringing of telephones, car engines, barking dogs, lawn movers and various other environmental sounds along with some softer sounds too. Performance in speech perception testing varies among individuals. With time and training, most patients understand more speech than with hearing aids and many communicate by telephone or enjoy music.

Can people with cochlear implants swim, shower and participate in sports?

Yes. People with implants can swim, shower and participate in virtually all types of sports activities when they are not wearing external equipment. The only restriction relates to skydiving and scuba diving because significant changes in air pressure are not advised. Participation in all other athletic activities is unrestricted, although protective headgear is always recommended.

Can an implanted individual sleep with an implant on?

No. The implant likely will come off during sleep and could get damaged. It is recommended that the user removes the device before going to bed.

Will the cochlear implant help to control the loudness of the voice of the wearer?

Yes. The cochlear implant usually helps the wearer control the loudness because they can hear their voice in relation to background sounds.

How long does it take to get the maximum benefit from a cochlear implant?

It depends a lot on the patient and their rehabilitation group. It also depends on how long the patient has been without hearing. It depends on whether the patient was able to speak well before he or she lost hearing. Usually, there is a rapid rise in the ability to interpret the sounds after receiving an implant. This rapid rise slows after about 3 months but continues.

Can an implanted person get an MRI?

The simple answer is no. Some of the devices have limited compatibility with MRI but this should always be discussed with implant surgeons.

Can an implanted person get an X-ray?

Yes. X-rays are fine, just removing external equipment is important.

Is there a recommended cell phone for use with implants?

No. There is not one recommended cell phone for implant users. Most users will need to go and try various phones at a store before buying one they feel works better for them. There are several factors that can interfere with compatibility.

Are there risks in cochlear implant surgery?

Risk is inherent in any surgery requiring general anesthesia. However, the surgical risks for cochlear implantation are minimal and most patients require only a one-day hospital stay and have no surgical complications.

Will an implanted person need more surgeries as new technology becomes available?

The implanted unit is designed to last a lifetime. The externally worn speech processor, which is responsible for converting sound into code and sending the information to an internal unit, is dependent on software that can be upgraded as technology improves.

Will an implanted child outgrow the internal
device and require a new one?

No. The cochlea is fully formed at birth and the skull structures achieve almost full growth by age 2. The electrode array is designed to accommodate skull growth in children.

Other FAQs

What is hearing impairment?

Why is early detection of hearing impairment & early intervention important?

Early detection of hearing impairment means your child can get early intervention and support. This can make a big difference to a child’s language development as the first 3 years of life are very crucial in the development of speech and language. If your child has an undiagnosed hearing impairment in early childhood, he/she could miss out on essential learning and development opportunities.

At what age can hearing impairment be

Hearing impairment can be diagnosed as early as 24 hours after birth.

At what age can hearing aid be put at the

Hearing aids can be given to a child of age 1 – 2 months after conducting all the necessary tests to confirm hearing impairment.

Is speech therapy sufficient to develop speech
and language skills in a child with hearing impairment?

Along with speech therapy, it is necessary for the child to have intensive speech and language stimulation at home, and attend pre-school.

Is speech therapy enough for the language and speech development of the hearing impact child?

No. Along with speech therapy schooling and an environment rich in speech and language at home is also very important. Having a conversation with the child and giving him a variety of experiences will develop his speech and language.

Will an older child start speaking immediately after wearing a hearing aid for the first time?

No. A hearing aid is a tool that helps sound reach the inner ear. It is not a medicine that will cure hearing impairment. The child has to undergo proper training from a speech therapist or a special teacher after wearing a hearing aid to be able to speak.

How long is speech therapy required?

This depends on the age at which the child starts using hearing aids and starts speech therapy. Younger the age of wearing a hearing aid and starting speech therapy, the better the outcome.

Does the child have to wear a hearing aid only during speech therapy sessions?

No. The child has to wear hearing aids as long as possible during the day, preferably throughout the day.

Should the hearing aid be removed before
the child goes to sleep?

It’s ok if the child goes to sleep with the hearing aid. but the hearing aids have to be removed once the child is asleep.

Will watching and listening to television help the child to learn speech once a hearing aid is given?

No. Till the child learns speech and language from a teacher or a therapist, television would not help.

What language is used in the preschool to teach hearing-impaired children?

In preschool, every child is taught in their mother tongue as it becomes easier for the child to learn the language that is spoken at home.

When can a child learn an additional language?

Once the child learns to use the mother tongue satisfactorily, additional language can be taught at the age of 3 to 4 years.