What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a special device for people who cannot benefit from hearing aids. When there is extensive damage to the microphones of the inner ear (cochlea) or the hearing nerve, hearing aids cannot make sounds loud enough or clear enough. The cochlear implant is the solution in this case. A cochlear implant is a sugically implanted device, that when used with an external processor, can help individuals hear better than they can with hearing aids.
How a Cochlear Implant Works
1. The external sound processor captures sounds, then filters and processes the sounds.
2. The sound processor translates the filtered sounds into digital information, which is then transmitted to the internal implant.
3. The internal implant converts the digital information into electrical signals, and sends them to a tiny, delicate curl of electrodes that sits gently inside the cochlea.
4. The electrical signals from the electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, bypassing the damaged cells that cause hearing loss, allowing the brain to perceive sound.
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How Natural Hearing Works
1. Sounds enter the ear canal and travel to the eardrum.
2. These sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, setting the bones in the middle ear into motion.
3. This motion is converted into electric impulses by tiny hair cells inside the inner ear (cochlea).
4. These impulses are sent to the brain, where they are perceived by the listener as sound.
Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?
Cochlear implant candidacy is determined by a series of tests and interviews with an audiologist who specializes in implantation. Candidates must also meet certain medical criteria. These are discussed with the implant surgeon during the intitial evaluation process. There are many variables that must be considered when deciding if a cochlear implant is right for you. The criteria for adults and children are slightly different as are the evaluation processes for these two groups.
For adults the basic guidelines are:
- moderate-severe to profound hearing loss
- lack of benefit from hearing aids despite consistent wear
- motivation to complete surgical and post-implantation rehabilitaion requirements - appointments and therapy
- realistic expectations
For children the basic guidelines are:
- severe to profound hearing loss
- lack of measureable benefit from hearing aids despite consistent wear - must complete a 6 month trial period of amplification
- motivation to complete surgical and post-implantation rehabiliation requirements - appointments and therapy
- desire to pursue an auditory oral educational approach preferred but not required
What happens at a cochlear implant evaluation?
Adults considering cochlear implantation must first have a complete audiogram. If this has been completed at another facility, your records will be requested in advance of making any appointments so that we can ensure that a cochlear implant evaluation is appropriate. You may refer yourself for this evaluation, but records and an order for the evaluation will need to be sent from your physician.
At the appointment, your audiologist will discuss the history of your hearing loss and your experience with hearing aids. Please bring your hearing aids with you to your appointment. Testing will be completed using your current devices. If you do not have hearing aids or if your current aids are not appropriate for your hearing loss, you may be asked to complete a trial period with new devices. This step is required by the FDA to ensure that candidates for implantation are selected appropriately.
Word recognition testing will be completed in a variety of conditions. Some tests will include sentences for you to repeat and some use single words. The tests can be quite difficult, espcially for someone who is a cochlear implant candidate. Just do your best and don't get discouraged.
Following the testing the audiolgist will review the test results with you. If the audiologist feels that a hearing aid trial is needed, she will discuss this process with you. The audiologist will also review how an implant works and show you the components. The audiologist can answer many questions that you may have, however, some questions will be best addressed by our implant surgeon, Dr. Carol Bauer.
If you need an interpreter, please inform the receptionist when she calls to make your appointment.
I am a candidate
What happens next?
An appointment to consult with Dr. Bauer, MD will be made to discuss your medical history and the surgical process. She will review your evaluation and discuss any questions or concerns you may have. If you continue with implantation, there are additional tests and medical clearances that are obtained prior to surgery.
Does insurance cover cochlear implants?
Most insurances have a benefit for cochlear implantation. Prior to surgery, your insurance will be contacted for pre-certification of benefits.
Implant Program Team
Appointments call 217-545-8000
Donate to The Listening, Language and Learning Program
The Listening, Language and Learning Program’s mission is to provide quality listening and spoken language training and education to children and adults with hearing loss. The services provided will help children become oral communicators and develop their listening, language, intellectual and learning skills. The program will also provide rehabilitation to adults so they can receive the maximum benefit possible from their hearing technology. If you would like to donate to the Listening, Language & Learning Program, click here.