In the case of hearing disability, in most cases it is the result of old age and acquired damage to the nerves which aid hearing, which tend to decrease an individual’s ability to hear well. In the recent times technology has taken many leaps and bounds when it comes to improving these hearing disabilities and the cochlear implant is one such device which has brought about a dramatic change in the way we treat these hearing disabilities.
What is a cochlear implant?
It is a small electronic device which consists of 2 parts, an internal and external one. The external part is located behind the ear and the internal one has to be inserted under the skin right behind your ear as well and this is a simple procedure which requires very little time, is minimally invasive and can be carried out as an outpatient procedure.
The internal part of this device consists of electrical wires and electrodes that lead to a part of the inner ear called the cochlear, which is one of the most integral organs which help us hear. When we hear sounds, these sounds are picked up by the external part of the device and then transmitted to the inner part. This inner part, then via the electrodes and wires stimulates the cochlear, which in turn stimulates the cochlear nerve and sends signals to the brain, which are then interpreted as the appropriate sounds.
This device has a played a huge role in improving the hearing of many people across the world in the recent past. Although it does not restore hearing to perfections and does not give your results which are a 100% accurate, it is preferred to the hearing aids which were traditionally used, because the results with the cochlear implant is much better.
After you have undergone the cochlear implant surgery, you need to undergo appropriate rehabilitation in order to get the best outcome. Because it doesn’t restore your hearing completely, in order to achieve the best outcome you have to couple this with the appropriate rehabilitation which will help you enhance lip reading as well, so that communication becomes easier for you.
Why do you need a cochlear implant?
Certain individuals become candidates for a cochlear implant, and this is decision is to have a cochlear implant is taken together with the input from your health care provider and audiologist. These individuals include:
- Those who still have the ability to hear with both ears but with poor clarity
- Those whose hearing has not been helped with the use of hearing aids
- Those who continue to rely heavily on lip reading despite wearing hearing aids
If you are an individual with moderate hearing loss then, you may only need a partial cochlear implant insertion, which will then allow you to use a hearing aid along with this simultaneously. But in cases of more severe hearing loss you will need a complete cochlear transplant for the best outcome.
Will I need cochlear implant surgery?
That depends on the severity of your hearing loss and how much you need to regain the ability to hear. With a cochlear implant you will be able to improve your hearing in various ways, including:
- The ability to talk over the telephone
- Watch TV without captions
- Differentiate between sounds
- Listen to music
But if you are considering a cochlear implant you need to understand:
- You will have to have rehabilitation session afterwards, in order to help you interpret these electrical signals, to improve your listening and communication skills. How long these session will take depends on your progress and goals
- Having this implant inserted does not mean that you will have your hearing restored to normal
- You will have to remove the external part of the device when bathing or swimming
- You will have to replace or recharge batteries everyday
- There is a possibility of the implant failing
- It may get damaged during sports or accidents
- If you have the need to undergo an MRI scan, you will have to go through a special procedure prior to it
Prior to having the cochlear implant you need to decide if you are a candidate for it. This may require you to:
- Meet a cochlear implant specialist and audiologist
- Undergo special tests to assess your hearing
- Undergo imaging scans to assess the structure of your ear
- Meet with a psychologist
What are the risks of undergoing a cochlear implant?
Cochlear implant surgery in India is considered a very safe and simple procedure, but does include minor risks such as:
- Infection of the implant
- Numbness in the area of the implant and around the ears
- Dryness of the mouth
- Altered sensation of taste
- Damage to the facial nerve resulting in problems of the muscles of the face
- Risks of general anesthesia
What happens during the procedure?
It is a procedure that is done under general anesthesia and takes about 2-4 hours. A cut is made right behind your ear, the facial nerve is identified, and an opening is created to access the cochlear, and the electrode is inserted here. Then a receiver is placed under the skin behind your ear, securing it to your skull, and then the incisions are closed. You will be kept under observation for about 2 hours after which you will be discharged.
On discharge you will be instructed on how to change your dressing and care for the surgical site. You will have to report to your doctor immediately in case of fever, pain or discharge at the surgical site. It will only be few weeks after the surgery that the device will be turned on and about 4-6 weeks after the external parts of the implant will be added, and all of it synced together.