By Dr. (Brig) SB Mahajan
Cochlear Implant

Hearing is the process of sound travelling through your child’s ears, but it’s actually their brain that interprets what they hear. Providing a child’s brain with the stimulation it needs at an early age can enable them to achieve their best speech language and social skills. Hearing aids work by amplifying sound, which makes them an ideal solution for children with mild to moderate hearing loss. However, for children with severe to profound hearing loss, hearing aids might not be enough for them to understand sounds and learn to speak. In this case a cochlear implant might be the best option.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that partially restores hearing. It can be an option for people who have severe hearing loss from inner-ear damage who are no longer helped by using hearing aids.Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve.Cochlear implants use a sound processor that fits behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped inner ear (cochlea).The signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which then directs them to the brain. The brain interprets those signals as sounds, though these sounds won't be just like normal hearing.It takes time and training to learn to interpret the signals received from a cochlear implant. Within a year of use, most people with cochlear implants make considerable gains in understanding speech.

Adults and children who are as young as six to 12 months old can benefit from cochlear implants. People who have cochlear implants report improved ability to hear speech without needing visual cues such as reading lips, recognition of normal, everyday environmental sounds, ability to listen in a noisy environment, ability to find where sounds are coming from, ability to hear television programs, music and telephone conversations.

Cochlear implant and ongoing support provide children with the opportunity to achieve their full potential. As a result, child develops spoken language early, achieve outcomes at par with typical-hearing peers, establish better language skills, attend mainstream education,enhance social skills, support long term speech and language abilities.Auditory verbal therapy(AVT) provided byspeech pathologist is a valuable asset for post-cochlear implant speech training.Rehabilitation involves training your brain to understand sounds heard through the cochlear implant. Speech and everyday environmental noises will sound different from what you remember. The brain needs time to recognize what these sounds mean. This process is ongoing and is best achieved by wearing the speech processor continuously during waking hours.

Results of cochlear implant surgery vary from person to person. Factors that can affect the outcomes of cochlear implantation include the age when hearing was lost, and the length of time between hearing loss and the cochlear implant surgery.For children, the best results generally occur with getting a cochlear implant at a young age.For adults, the best results are generally associated with a shorter period of profound hearing loss before cochlear implantation. Adults with little or no experience with sound tend to benefit less from cochlear implants.

Many people who meet the hearing criteria for cochlear implantation may eventually get clearer hearing with using the device.Although ear noise (tinnitus) isn't a primary reason to receive a cochlear implant, the cochlear implant may partially suppress or improve the severity of tinnitus during use. It can rarely worsen tinnitus severity.