What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant provides access to sounds for people with a significant hearing loss who get little or no benefit from hearing aids. It is a highly technical medical device that has internal and external parts and is designed to bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The brain experiences this stimulation as sound sensation.

  1. External speech processor captures sound and converts it to digital signals.

  2. Processor sends digital signals to internal implant.

  3. Internal implant turns signals into electrical energy, sending it to an array inside the cochlea.

  4. Electrodes stimulate hearing nerve, bypassing damaged hair cells, and the brain perceives signals; you hear sound.

​​The visible parts of a cochlear implant are called the speech processor and transmitting coil. These consist of a microphone, batteries and a mini-computer that analyses incoming sounds and converts them into digital signals. These signals are then transmitted by radio waves through the skin via the coil to the internal implant.

 

A cochlear implant may benefit your child if:

  • A severe to profound hearing loss has been diagnosed and hearing aids are not effective enough

  • Your child has a significant hearing loss from recent meningitis

  • Your child's hearing is getting worse

  • Your child has auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder and his/her speech and language development is not progressing as expected.

 

It is important to note that just because your child fits the categories above it does not mean they will be a good candidate for an implant.

 

Advantages of a cochlear implant:

  • Most receipients can follow a normal conversation and participate more easily in the hearing community.

  • Allows many children with profound hearing loss to achieve age-appropriate speech and language.

  • May enable use of the telephone.

  • Avoids problems with acoustic feedback and ear moulds.

  • Can detect soft environmental sounds across the frequency range 250Hz-8KHz.

  • Enables greater ease with high frequency consonant perception and production e.g. /s/ /sh/ /f/ /t/ /k/ /p/ /h/ /th/

 

Disadvantages of a cochlear implant:

  • Requires significant time commitment to habilitation following surgery.

  • Residual hearing in the implanted ear may be lost as a result of the surgery.

  • The speech processor must be protected against moisture during water activities (such as swimming, bathing or showering). The cochlear implant may need to be removed for water activites, or alternatively, water protective covers may be used

 

 

Surgery

An operation lasting for two or three hours is necessary to insert the implant. After surgery, patients usually stay overnight and go home the next day. The surgical process is explained in details during each child's assessment, A Parent stays overnight with the child.

 

What do I do next?

 

Talk to your health professional about a referral for cochlear implants.

The Northern Cochlear Implant Trust holds contracts with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education for the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme. Patients eligible for a publicly funded cochlear implant receive services from providers listed below: