If you have spent any time perusing Facebook, you have probably seen those tear-inducing videos of people hearing someone they love either for the first time or for the first time since they lost their hearing. We love these videos, and it is great to see how some of the work we do here has such a profound effect on so many people.
One of the devices that is commonly used to create such a dramatic effect. Is called a Cochlear implant. This device has been growing popular and as of 2012 more than 300, 000 thousand patients have received them. So what is it and how does it work?
How we hear:
Before you can understand the Cochlear implant, you need to know a couple of basics about how we hear. So here is a quick overview:
Step 1: Sound waves move the external Canal and hit the ear drum.
Step 2: The ear drum then vibrates the three tiny bones inside the ear called the malleus, the incus and the stapes.
Step 3. The stapes then pushes on the Cochlea, which is a fluid-filled sack shaped like a snail that sends the sound waves up to the Organ of Corti.
Step 4: The Organ of Corti is filled with tiny hair cells that translate the sound into our auditory nerve.
Step 5. The Auditory nerve then sends it to our brains and categorizes the sounds.
The Cochlear Implant:
So how does the Cochlear implant work with this profess? It also works in steps.
The first piece of the implant is a microphone that picks up the sound. This is the piece outside of the ear.
Also, outside of the ear in the same convenient piece is the processor which arranges the sound.
The transmitter inside the skull (the implant part) then receives the signal and turns them into electrical impulses.
Then an electoral Ray sends the impulses to the auditory nerve to be processed.
It is called a cochlear implant because the electoral pulses are sent through the Cochlea and then bypass the damaged parts of the ear (often the hairs in the Organ of Corti and the fluid in the Chochlea ) and mimics the signals they would send to the brain.
Benefits and risks:
Because of this mimicking, the sounds doesn’t sound at all like normal hearing, and it will destroy any of the residual hearing you may have left if you choose this procedure over a hearing aid. However, it is perfect for profoundly deaf patients. It can allow users to hear footsteps, music, telephone calls, conversation and often alleviates the needs for other coping mechanism like reading lips.
It is also great for both adults and kids. While it does take some time to adjust and learn what the sounds mean, and may even require some therapy during the adjustment period. Once through it has shown to have a drastic improvement in the quality of life for most patients.
While the risks are low it is good to know them, so talk to your doctor and make sure you are as educated as possible. The tramsmiter and the electrical array are surgically implanted into the skull , so there are of course many of the risks that go with all procedures. Some of the other common issues include vertigo, Infection, facial nerve damage, meningitis, Tinnitus, and others. Again it doesn’t amplify hearing like a hearing aid. Instead it creates a new sensation, so it isn’t for every patient.
However, it does give very deaf patients a new lease on the hearing world and allows them to communicate and stay safe. It is a great advancement and has changed lives. If you would like to learn more about a Cohlear Impant, Call us!