How Does a Cochlear Implant Work and When Is One Considered?

05/09/2022 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources, Technology

"The type of patient we approve for a cochlear implant usually has a severe hearing loss and prescription hearing aids don’t work well for them."

At Flex Audiology, we’ve helped thousands of people to achieve better hearing for more than 16 years, with a customized treatment plan for each person’s unique hearing.

We always stay up to date on the latest developments in hearing because we want our patients to have the best options available. And we are particularly interested in better ways to treat patients with a severe or profound hearing loss because hearing aids are often not the answer.

Which is why we are so excited about our cochlear implant program.

What Is a Cochlear Implant and How Does It Work?

To put it simply, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of your hearing system to allow your brain to hear sound.

It consists of three parts, with differing ways of working depending on the device:

The Nucleus System

  1. A sound processor to process sounds. It is worn behind the ear. The microphones in it digitize incoming sound signals into electrical signals, which they then send to the implanted receiver.
  2. A receiver. It is placed under the skin and receives sound signals from the sound processor and sends the digital sound signals down the electrode into the cochlea.
  3. An electrode in the cochlea/inner ear. The hearing nerve fibers in the cochlea pick up the signals and send them to the brain, which is translated as the sound you hear.

The Nucleus Hybrid System works in much the same way, only the sound processor sends the digital signals through an acoustic component in the ear canal to the implant receiver.

A cochlear implant is not a cure; it is a hearing treatment option that helps a person to hear and process sound, but it is designed to last a lifetime.

Is a Cochlear Implant the Next Step for You or a Loved One? Book Your Assessment for Candidacy with a Specialist Today.

Cochlear Implant Surgery

Surgery – Cochlear implant surgery is usually done as a day patient under general anesthetic, with no follow-up appointment needed for suture removal, as the sutures are often disposable.

Post-surgery – Multiple in-person and virtual sessions are required with an audiologist and a speech language pathologist. This is because it takes the brain a few months to learn how to decipher the new sounds it hears.

The sound a cochlear implant sends to the brain is different to what a person might be used to hearing because it’s digitized. A speech pathologist helps retrain the brain to distinguish and recognize the different sounds it hears.

Post-surgery visits with the audiologist are required to make sure the sound is activated in very small steps, building in range over the six-month period.

Cost – A cochlear implant costs about $60,000 if you were to finance it yourself. Fortunately, this implant is usually covered by your private insurance, and Medicare also covers FDA-approved cochlear implants.

Watch some inspiring testimonials from people who now have a cochlear implant and learn how different their lives are compared to their pre-implant days.

Am I a Good Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear implants can be done at any age for one or both ears, and when assessing a person for candidacy, we look at your medical history, how well you’ve done with hearing aid use up till now, and your current level of word recognition.

Children benefit a lot from having it done, as the increased ability to communicate and understand means their speech and learning ability grows substantially.

Adults benefit considerably because being able to communicate again means they no longer withdraw or self-isolate to avoid feeling left out of conversations. They also are much less likely to suffer the cognitive decline or depression related to an untreated hearing loss.

Your lifestyle won’t need to change with the implant, as you can wear protective headgear for sports like football and boxing, and you can remove the external processor when swimming or showering.

Flex Audiology’s Cochlear Implant Program

Flex Audiology is where most of a patient’s cochlear implant journey will occur. We do the:

  • Initial evaluations
  • Activations
  • Follow-up appointments
  • Hearing aid bi-modal adjustments
  • Auditory training – if needed
  • Post-evaluation testing

The speech language pathology appointments will usually be referred out, but we can also do auditory training here.

Cochlear Implant Models

The model chosen will depend on your unique needs.

We will discuss the various types and patient preferences regarding cochlear implant models; however, the ultimate decision is up to the surgeon and audiologist to ensure the best solution for the patient.

First Steps to Assess Your Candidacy for a Cochlear Implant

Interested in learning more about your candidacy for a cochlear implant? The first step is to have a comprehensive hearing assessment so we can see what your unique hearing needs are.

Book a cochlear assessment. After the assessment, we will go over the results with you and answer all your questions.

The type of patient we approve for a cochlear implant usually has a severe hearing loss and prescription hearing aids don’t work well for them. If this is you, or you are researching implants for a loved one, feel free to contact us with all your questions.

We are delighted to have this program as an option for those who thought they would never be able to communicate clearly with their loved ones again, and we look forward to helping you.

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Dr. Person Au.D, CCC-A

Dr. Person has been a private practice owner since 2005. She currently specializes in hearing aids, tinnitus management and vestibular diagnostics, while operating in an unbundled service delivery model. Dr. Person is the host of The Unbundled Audiologist podcast. She serves as the incoming VP of Audiology for ISHA for a three year term. Her greatest accomplishment is creating a life where she can serve others while still spending quality time with her husband and two small children.