As East Tennessee’s most trusted otolaryngology specialists, we’ve had the pleasure of helping thousands of local people discover better ear, nose, and throat health.
When patients visit us concerned with their hearing health, it’s often after they’ve already exhausted the option of using hearing aids – the severity of their hearing loss is usually too significant for hearing aids to offer effective treatment.
Here’s where we would consider cochlear implants for the patient.
What Is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is a device that is implanted into the inner ear that directly stimulates the hearing nerve. Cochlear implants are designed to help restore hearing when traditional hearing aids are no longer able to help due to the severity of hearing loss.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
A cochlear implant (CI) differs from traditional acoustical amplification in that it bypasses the damaged inner ear or cochlea that is the likely cause of hearing loss, providing electrical impulses directly to the nerve of hearing and then to the brain.
In a normally functioning ear, sound is transmitted through the ear canal which causes the tympanic membrane (eardrum) to vibrate. This vibration causes the bones of the middle ear to move which moves fluid in the cochlea (inner ear hearing organ). The movement of this fluid stimulates specialized hair cells within the cochlea to send the sound to the auditory nerve. Most cases of sensorineural hearing loss are due to the damage or absence of these specialized hair cells. A cochlear implant replaces the function of the damaged sensory hair cells to help provide patients with clearer overall hearing.
Who is a Good Candidate for Cochlear Implants?
Any person who is struggling with communication despite properly fit hearing aids might be a candidate for a cochlear implant. This may include patients with:
- substantial sensorineural (inner ear) hearing loss in both ears
- those who have little or no benefit with appropriately fit hearing aids
- those who have a clear understanding of cochlear implantation and typical results.
- those who are committed to the rehabilitation process and follow-up appointments.
What Does the Surgery Procedure Involve?
A cochlear implant is an outpatient (go home the same day) surgery in most people. It is safe and rarely has complications. The surgery on average takes around 1 hour to perform. We recommend that patients avoid strenuous activity for around 1 week after their implant. After this, patients can return to their normal daily life.
Many patients ask if they will have improved hearing immediate after the surgery, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. People will often hear worse out of that ear initially, as we don’t turn the implant on a few weeks.
What to Expect After a Cochlear Implant Surgery?
The cochlear implant will be activated (turned on) a few weeks (2-4) following surgery. The surgeon will ensure the patient is healing well. After this, the patient will work closely with their Audiologist to have the cochlear implant adjusted to the best settings that support hearing. They may also work with other specialists if needed, such as Speech Language Therapists. These therapies will help the cochlear implant to function at its best.
Patients will experience most of their improvement during the first few months after activation. However, hearing with the cochlear implant will continue to improve beyond this period.
How Will Things Sound with a Cochlear Implant?
Patients describe the sound of cochlear implant at first very differently. Some say it sounds cartoonish or mechanical. This almost always improves over time, and most will experience significant improvement in their communication.
Think You’re a Cochlear Implant Candidate?
If you or a loved one is considering cochlear implants as your next step toward better hearing, we’d love to help you discover the right solution for you.
Our team has significant experience helping patients throughout East Tennessee with all varieties of hearing issues, and are currently the only place in the area offering this full service. Choosing a professional to support you on your journey to better health is the best first step to ensuring the outcome is one that serves you best.
To schedule a no-obligation consultation with one of our experts, please fill out the form on this page and we’ll call you to confirm your appointment shortly.