Also referred to as a bionic ear, a cochlear implant provides hope to parents of children with significant hearing loss. The American Academy of Audiology agrees that multichannel cochlear implants are an excellent sensory aid option for kids with profound hearing loss that haven’t responded well to conventional hearing aids. Cochlear surgery can help gain or restore the ability to sense sound.
What Are Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear implants are a device that’s surgically inserted to overcome issues with the cochlear ear tubes. These curled tubes are shaped like snails and lay near the nerves in your child’s ears. They are supposed to transform sound vibrations into signals for the auditory nerve before being translated as sound by the brain. However, if the cochlea doesn’t work, the auditory nerve doesn’t get stimulated and sound doesn’t reach the brain, making hearing impossible. The medical term for this condition is sensorineural hearing loss.
Cochlear implants bypass damaged areas and create electrical signals that stimulate the nerve that transfers sound to the brain. This makes it possible for your child to hear, though the quality of that sound will be different than normal hearing. As the technology for cochlear implants continues to advance, the sound that they produce is becoming more natural. Even infants who have never heard before can use these implants to make sense of the world around them and develop language and speech.
A cochlear implant is made up of two pieces. The first is an implant package embedded inside the skull. The other is a sound and speech processor worn on the outside of the body. Together they work to receive sound and send it to the brain for processing. The sound and speech processor is a micro computer that translates sound into digital information and transfers that information to the implant package as an electrical signal. It looks very much like a regular hearing aid and the processor can be worn in a harness, belt, or pocket, or behind the ear as a headset.
Is Cochlear Surgery Right for Your Child?
While cochlear implants can be very effective for some, not everyone is eligible to get one. If your child has profound hearing loss in both ears and is over a year old, they may be an excellent candidate, but there are some exceptions. Your child may not be a good match for several reasons. If a child can hear some sound and speech with hearing aids, they’re not eligible for cochlear implants. They may also be excluded if they’ve had severe deafness for a long time, if the auditory nerve is absent or damaged, or if their hearing loss isn’t caused by a problem with the cochlea.
Ultimately, the decision of whether your child is a good candidate for a cochlear implant is made by you and your physician. To make an appointment for your child with Oklahoma Otolaryngology Associates for a full evaluation, contact us at our Edmond, Northwest Oklahoma City, Southwest Oklahoma City, or Norman offices.