A cochlear implant is able to transmit sound directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing the outer, middle and inner ear. This implant is ideal for those that are profoundly deaf, severely hard-of-hearing or have extensive damage to the ear.
A cochlear implant consists of four parts: a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter and an electrode array. The microphone and speech processor sit on the outside of the ear and work together to pick up sounds from the environment. The transmitter is implanted under the skin, behind the receiver; the transmitter converts the signals from the speech processor and converts those signals into electric impulses. The electrode array is implanted within the inner ear, connected to the auditory nerve. The electrode array collects the impulses from the transmitter and sends them to the auditory nerve, which carries the information to the brain to be processed as sound.
Cochlear implants require a small surgery to implant the device and therapy after the surgery to learn (or relearn) how to hear. Assistive devices have been developed that work with the implant to improve its effectiveness, such as hand-held microphones that can be used in noisy environments. Some individuals can benefit from using two technologies, a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. The hearing aid amplifies sound and sends that through the middle ear to the cochlea. The implant converts sound to electrical impulses, which are sent directly to the cochlea. As with hearing aids, this technology continues to advance. Currently, there are three manufactures making these devices: Med El, Advanced Bionics and Cochlear of America.
If you think you or a loved one could benefit from a cochlear implant, contact Central Florida at (863) 386-9111 for more information.