If you have moderate to profound hearing loss and are no longer benefitting from hearing aids, your Loyola audiologist or otolaryngologist may recommend a cochlear implant. Unlike a traditional hearing aid, a cochlear implant does not make sound louder or clearer; rather it bypasses the damaged parts of the auditory system and stimulates the nerve of hearing, allowing you to receive sound.
Loyola will work with you and your family to determine if you are a candidate for a cochlear implant. You will undergo testing to determine whether this treatment is appropriate for you. This testing may include:
- Audiologic testing
- CT scan (computed tomography)
- Medical examination
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
- Psychological testing
If you and your Loyola doctor determine that a cochlear implant is right for you, the team caring for you will include your audiologist, an otologist or otolaryngologist, nursing staff, a psychologist and a speech-language pathologist.
The cochlear implant system contains two parts: the external processor and the internal implant. The external processor is worn behind the ear and includes a speech processor, a microphone and a battery compartment. The internal implant is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear. These two parts work together to allow you to perceive sound.
Cochlear implant surgery usually takes place in an outpatient setting under general anesthesia. During surgery, your surgeon will make a small incision behind your ear, exposing the cochlea. Then, an opening is made in the cochlea and the electrodes for your implant are inserted. The internal implant is then placed beneath the skin.
A few weeks after implantation, your surgical team will place your external processor, microphone and implant transmitter. Your Loyola audiologist will activate the implant. This is an historic occasion as it is the first time you will hear sounds through the implant.
Following your implant, you will participate in speech-language therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing. You will need time and practice to interpret the sounds created by the cochlear implant. Overwhelmingly, cochlear implant patients see improvement in their communication skills and find their quality of life to be greatly improved.