For severely hard of hearing individuals, it can be frustrating being hindered when you’re trying to communicate with others. Modern technology has made it so that there are more and more ways for those who are hard of hearing to still have a sense of sound, from hearing aids to cochlear implants. But it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which best suits your situation for your type of hearing loss. Below, we outline the ins and outs of cochlear implants, so you can see if this could be the right option for you.
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a complex medical device that is surgically implanted. It helps to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf, or severely hard of hearing, by bypassing the damaged portion of the inner ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
Cochlear implants are not suitable for all types of hearing loss and work best for people that have been diagnosed with sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there has been damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, and could include the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain.
The external component includes a microphone, speech processor, and transmitter, while the internal component is a receiver that is implanted under the skin, behind the ear, as well as one or more electrode arrays that have been surgically implanted into the inner ear. These two parts are connected by a magnet. Once the internal component has been surgically implanted, the surgical site needs to heal first before the external component is fitted, meaning that it is not an instantaneous hearing loss treatment.
Limitations of cochlear implants
It is important to note that cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but actually just provides the sensation of sound, it means that hearing through a cochlear implant takes time to learn and requires significant therapy before the client can fully benefit from the implant. Because it requires both a surgical procedure as well as many sessions to learn, or relearn, the sense of hearing, it can be a costly, and long process for some. Getting a cochlear implant should be discussed intensively with your audiologist, speech language pathologist, as well as an experienced cochlear-implant surgeon, before proceeding, as it does come with a long-term commitment as a hearing loss treatment.
While surgery is almost always safe, it’s important to keep in mind that complications can be a risk factor. While rare, these can include bleeding, infection, device malfunction, facial nerve weakness, dizziness, and ringing in the ear. A long-term risk of a cochlear implant is meningitis, but this has only been seen in a few cases.
In most cases, cochlear implants will only be considered if hearing aids have not provided ample sense of hearing to the client.
Cochlear implants versus hearing aids
When it comes to hearing loss, hearing aids have come a long way over the years in providing relief for hard of hearing individuals. Hearing aids remain to be one of the most affordable and effective forms of treatment for those with mild to moderate hearing loss, and is one of the most popular options for hard of hearing clients all over the world.
However, if you have been diagnosed with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be a better option. Due to the nature of this implant, you will need to consult with audiologists, a speech language pathologist, as well as your surgeon before proceeding. It can be an expensive option, however, for those who are deaf or severely hard of hearing, it can provide much needed relief for hearing issues.
It’s important to consult with a medical professional to know if this is the right option for your needs, as it may not be necessary depending on the degree of hearing loss that you are experiencing.
Bone-anchored hearing systems
For those with at least one inner ear that functions normally, and have been diagnosed with conductive hearing loss, bone-anchored hearing systems can be a good option. This consists of an implant that’s surgically inserted into the bone behind the ear, with a hearing aid that fits tightly over the implant. When sound is detected, vibrations are sent from the bone, to the inner ear. It’s a good option for people with conductive hearing loss, such as clients with outer or middle ear malformations, as well as clients with single-sided deafness.
Conductive hearing loss surgery
Conductive hearing loss happens when there is damage, or an obstruction, to the outer or middle ear that prevents the sound from being conducted to the inner ear. While it can be temporary or permanent, surgical intervention has been seen to restore hearing.
In cases such as children having chronic episodes of ear infections that can lead to long-term hearing loss, pressure equalisation (PE) tubes can be recommended to be inserted through the eardrum to allow air into the middle ear. While children are the most common recipients, adults may also suffer from the same condition and benefit from the insertion of PE tubes.
Clients with otosclerosis may benefit from having a stapedectomy, a procedure that implants a device that bypasses abnormal hardening of the bone tissue in the middle ear. Hearing loss typically happens when the stapes bone, located in the middle ear, becomes stuck in place. Because it is unable to vibrate or send sound through the ear, hearing is impaired.
Reach out to Art of Hearing
If you’re struggling with hearing loss, it’s important to consult with an audiologist in order to have a professional diagnosis of your issue. The experts at Art of Hearing are experienced in assessing hearing loss problems, and analysing what type of treatment options can be best for your situation.
Our services include finding the right hearing aids in Perth for clients, hearing tests, tinnitus treatments, as well as ear wax removal. If you’re looking for Perth hearing aids, or hearing loss treatment options, see an audiologist at Art of Hearing today.