How Hearing Works cochlear implants

Your ear consists of 3 parts:

-Outer ear: the visible outer portion of the ear and ear canal
-Middle ear: the eardrum and three tiny bones
-Inner ear: the fluid-filled cochlea, which contains thousands of tiny sound receptors called hair cell

For people with normal hearing, sound passes through all three parts of the ear. The outer ear collects the sound and directs it to the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. This vibration creates a chain reaction in the three tiny bones of the middle ear. Motion of these bones causes fluid to move throughout the inner ear, or cochlea. As the fluid moves, thousands of tiny sound receptors (called hair cells) that line the cochlea bend back and forth. When the hair cells move, they send electrical signals to the hearing nerve, which carries them to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

About Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss typically occurs when part of the inner ear (cochlea, hair cells, hearing nerve) is damaged or destroyed. Sensorineural hearing loss, also known as ‘nerve deafness,’ may have a variety of causes, such as heredity, aging, disease, infection or loud ‘toxic’ noise.

Despite the term “nerve deafness,” the hearing nerve itself is rarely damaged. Instead, damage most often occurs in the hair cells located in the cochlea, which serve to send sound information (electrical signals) to the hearing nerve. When hair cells are damaged, they are unable to send sound information to the hearing nerve and the person experiences hearing loss.

The degree of hearing loss depends on the number of hair cells that are damaged. If only a small percentage of hair cells are damaged, a person might experience a mild or moderate hearing loss and may benefit from the use of hearing aids. If a significant number of hair cells are damaged, a person might experience severe or profound hearing loss, and even loud sounds may be difficult to understand.

In cases of severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss, a doctor or audiologist may recommend that the person be evaluated for a cochlear implant.

What is a cochlear implant

The cochlear implant is a technological wonder. It is the only medical technology able to partially restore a human sense – hearing. Specifically, the cochlear implant is an implanted device with an external mini-computer called a sound processor. The processor translates the surrounding sounds into signals that can be sent to the hearing nerve and can be recognized by the brain as sound. The sound processor and implant successfully bypass the part of the auditory system that is damaged and enhance hearing ability. This enables you or your child to more easily interact with the world.

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1. Sound Processor – captures sound from the environment, processes the sound into digital information, then transmits it to the implant.
2. Implant – converts the information into signals that the electrode delivers to the hearing nerve.
3. Hearing Nerve – carries the sound information to the brain, where it is heard.

In short, cochlear implants successfully bypass the part of the auditory system that is damaged and prevents you or your child from hearing well.

Why do people get a Cochlear Implant?

Simply put, they want to hear better, or they want their child to hear better. Much better. Their family members want them to hear better, too. They want to be included instead of being left out. They want to be able to use the telephone, enjoy music, and hear the sounds of nature. They want more opportunity for the future. They want to be independent. They want to relax and participate in the world of sound around them. They want to hear life.

Who is eligible to receive a Cochlear Implant?

Typically, someone with severe-to-profound hearing loss is unable to use the telephone reliably and has real difficulty hearing in noisy environments even with the use of hearing aids. Severely or profoundly hard of hearing adults with “nerve deafness” (sensorineural hearing loss) may be eligible to receive a cochlear implant. Children with profound hearing loss in both ears and who are 12 months of age or older may also be candidates. Most people with severe or profound hearing loss are considered candidates. The only way to determine if you or your child is a cochlear implant candidate is to be evaluated at a professional cochlear implant center.

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