There are thousands of people with hearing disabilities that are using hearing aids. For most a hearing aid will be enough to improve their standard of living and it is estimated that only 1 out of 5 people are wearing one when they should. Hearing aids are a small electronic device that sits behind the ear and consists of a microphone, amplifier and a speaker. The speaker is inserted into the ear canal and amplifies the volume so that hard hearing people can hear soft sounds or understand conversation in a noisy environment. The greater the damage to a persons hair cells the louder the aid can produce sound to stimulate the cells and transfer it to the neurotransmitters. However, if there is severe damage to these cells a hearing aid will be ineffective.
Cochlear implant work on a different principle, the effectively replace the damaged hair cells in the inner ear. The implant directly stimulate the auditory nerve so its ideal for deaf or very hard hearing patients.
The implant consists of 4 parts:
*A microphone which picks up the sound waves.
*Speech Processor: This part of the device selects and arrange sound collected by the microphone.
*Transmitter and receiver/stimulator: This part is responsible for converting signals from the processor to electrical impulses.
*Electrode array: this is the part that is connected to the auditory nerve.
Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and it takes some time to relearn.
As of Dec 2012 there has been over 324 200 implants worldwide with huge success.
At first a doctor will make a small cut behind the ear and insert the receiver. The receiver is then connected to electrodes and inserted into the cochlea. The process only takes 1-2 hours and patients will be going home the same day.
1-2 weeks later the speech processor will be fitted and connected to a microphone which sits behind the ear. Modern processor has different options and connections that allow it to be connected to different hearing aids or even Ipods.
Advantages of Cochlear implants:
The advantages are huge and some of them include
*Deaf or near-deaf people will hear sounds again
*Speech could be heard at normal levels.
*Better articulation of your own voice
*Able to talk on a phone, when you could only lip read.
Disadvantages of Cochlear Implants
*nerve damage that effect you taste or paralysis of facial features.
*Loss of hearing if you had any left.
The advances in cochlear implants have been huge since the first implant nearly 30 years ago. It has been life changing for some individuals, and should be an option for anybody that’s hard hearing or deaf. To see the life changing effects it could have look at this video: