Cochlear implant surgery can enhance the quality of life by helping you regain the ability to hear. People regain their confidence with a simple surgery. However, not every individual is the right candidate for the procedure.
Moreover, going for cochlear implant surgery for better hearing is not an easy decision to make. This guide will help you reach a decision as it covers almost every aspect of cochlear implant surgery.
What are Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear implants are small electronic devices that stimulate the cochlear nerve electronically. The cochlear nerve is the one that carries auditory sensory information from the cochlea of the inner ear to the brain directly.
There are two parts to a cochlear implant- external and internal. The external part is placed outside the ear where they can pick up sound with a microphone while the internal part sits inside the inner ear. The outer part processes the sound picked up from the microphone and sends it to the internal part.
This electronic device can help in restoring hearing loss or improving hearing ability and understanding speech.
What is the difference between a cochlear implant and hearing aid?
The first and foremost point of distinction between a cochlear implant and a hearing aid is that the former has to be surgically inserted into the ear while the latter sits in the outer ear.
A hearing aid works by amplifying the sound entering the ear. It acts as an amplifier by amplifying all the ambient sound around a person, similar to turning up the volume on the television. However, it doesn’t improve speech understanding. A person can fail to interpret speech, even with high-grade hearing aids. Under such circumstances, he or she may consider cochlear implant surgery.
Why Cochlear Implants are required?
The uses of cochlear implants are manifold. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association mentions the following benefits-
- Treats severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears.
- Cures loss of hearing that develops after learning speech and language.
- Aids in hearing for people with hearing loss and already using hearing aids
- People who are unable to undergo surgery can try cochlear implants
How do Cochlear Implants work?
ENT doctors prescribe hearing aids when the anatomy of the ear, especially the cochlea, is damaged to receive any audio. The cochlea can be damaged due to an injury or infection which curbs their function of sending audio information to the brain for processing.
The cochlear implants simply bypass the signal from the damaged portion of the ear ensuring that other audio signals reach the brain.
- The external microphone that captures sound, converts the information into a digital signal.
- Via electronic impulses, the converted digital signal is then sent along the auditory nerve.
- Once the impulses reach the brain, these are interpreted as sound.
What happens during Cochlear Implant surgery?
The surgery is an outpatient procedure which means that the individual can go back on the same day of the surgery. The whole procedure takes 2-4 hours to complete. Moreover, the patient is put to sleep with the help of general anesthesia.
- Once the patient is unconscious, the surgeon makes a small incision behind the ear and opens the mastoid bone.
- After this, the doctor identifies facial nerves and opens up a hole to reach the cochlea.
- Followed by this, the cochlea is opened where the implant electrodes are inserted.
- An electronic device called the receiver is put behind the ear and secured to the skull in this area.
- The doctor closes all the incisions and moves the patient to the recovery room.
- After proper observation, the patient is discharged.
What are the Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implant Surgery?
Pros of Cochlear Implant Surgery
Improvement in hearing
To improve hearing and speech perception, cochlear implants can be helpful. Even after placing cochlear implants, some people continue to rely on lip-reading and sign language to understand speech and communication.
Development of speech
Small electronic devices can enhance someone’s speech and communication by developing listening and speaking skills.
People with impaired hearing often have to face several potentially dangerous situations that can lead to fatal accidents. If they use cochlear implants, such potential dangers can be prevented.
Cons of Cochlear Implant Surgery
Risk of pneumococcal form
After undergoing cochlear implant surgery, people are more likely to develop bacterial meningitis. Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid due to a viral or bacterial infection.
Maintenance of cochlear implants
Cochlear implants require maintenance regularly as these can wear and tear due to usage. Maintenance includes battery changes, fixing wires or re-mapping of the device.
Different outcomes and hearing levels for each person
Each person after a cochlear implant surgery will have different levels of hearing. The benefit is not equal for every individual undergoing cochlear implant surgery.
The cost of cochlear implant surgery is more on the higher end. Fortunately, there are several insurance companies that can cover or partly assist in covering the cost of a cochlear implant.
Although cochlear implant surgery is safe, there are several risks associated with the surgery. Some of them are mentioned below-
- Infection near the implant area
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Numbness around the ear
- Change in taste
- Dryness in the mouth
- Harming the facial nerve resulting in movement of facial muscles
- Leaking of spinal fluid
- Meningitis in which the membrane that covers the brain gets infected
- Risk of general anesthesia
- Due to an infection, the implant needs to be removed
Making A Decision
If you are an ideal candidate for cochlear implant, the ultimate decision still rests on you. Once the surgery is completed, the implants cannot be removed easily like a hearing aid. This is like a permanent solution for hearing loss.
If you are still unsure and have more questions, you can other patients who have undergone the surgery. Or else, you can also book an online consultation with an ENT doctor from Pristyn Care or book an appointment at the nearest clinic.