What is a cochlear implant?
- A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted device that provides people with a significant amount of hearing loss the perception of sounds.
- A cochlear implant has two parts:
- Internal: One piece of the device is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear. This piece contains a magnet and a tiny electrode array that is inserted into your cochlear.
- External: One piece of the device is worn outside the body behind the ear. This is called the speech processor.
- Both the internal and external pieces are needed for the cochlear implant to work.
How does a cochlear implant work?
- A cochlear implant is not a hearing aid– it does not make natural (acoustic) sounds louder.
- Instead, a cochlear implant turns acoustic sounds into electrical pulses that stimulate your auditory nerve.
- A cochlear implant user must learn how to code these electrical pulses to understand speech. This takes months to years of practice!
What is the process of getting a cochlear implant?
- To get a cochlear implant, a person must meet certain criteria which supports that a cochlear implant may be a good option.
- These criteria typically include having a certain degree of hearing loss, having ear structures that support a cochlear implant, and understanding the potential outcomes.
- A person will usually undergo multiple medical appointments to evaluate the former criteria. The decision to get a cochlear implant is made by the individual and their care team.
- If a person decides to get a cochlear implant, they will have surgery to place the device. Following surgery, they must attend multiple medical appointments to make their cochlear implant work the best for them.
Does a cochlear implant restore hearing or “cure” hearing loss?
- No. Hearing cannot be restored one a person has hearing loss. Instead, a cochlear implant provides the perception of sounds in a new way.
How old you have to be to get a cochlear implant?
- In the United Sates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows children as young as 9 months old to be implanted.
Do I, or my child, qualify for a cochlear implant?
- Any questions regarding whether a cochlear implant is right for you, or someone in your family, should be directed to your doctor.
Learn more about Seattle Children’s Cochlear Implant Program here