What You Should Know About Cochlear Implants for Hearing Loss

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Cochlear implant for hearing loss

Hearing loss is more common than ever before. Millions of people of all ages have been diagnosed with hearing loss in the United States alone. While many can manage their hearing impairment with hearing aids, those with more severe hearing loss may turn to cochlear implants.

What Is A Cochlear Implant?

Like hearing aids, cochlear implants are a way to hear sounds even with a severe hearing loss. What makes cochlear implants different is that sounds picked up by the microphone in the device sends signals directly to the auditory nerve. This creates a sense of sound, if not the exact sound

A cochlear implant includes an external piece attached behind the ear and an inner piece placed surgically beneath the skin.

Opting for a cochlear implant is a personal choice that requires careful consideration.

Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are not for everyone. Consider these pros and cons of the devices, and work closely with your hearing health care provider to determine if a cochlear implant is right for you, your hearing loss and your lifestyle.

  • Pro: Like hearing aids, cochlear implants can, in most cases, improve hearing by at least some degree.
  • Pro: As with hearing aids, improved communication can be an added benefit of cochlear implants.
  • Pro: Cochlear implants and the added hearing ability they provide may allow for more choices in schools, workplaces, even activities in the community
  • Pro: It’s hard to deny that hearing loss can pose some safety concerns. With cochlear implants, those with severe hearing loss can better avoid dangerous situations and hear vital alerts to stay safe.
  • Con: While most people do see some improvement in hearing, it is still difficult to predict just how much hearing will improve.
  • Con: Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants require a surgical procedure to place them. This comes with risks just like any surgical procedure.
  • Con: Cochlear implants give a sense of sound, rather than amplifying the exact sound. Adjusting to “hearing” and understanding these sounds can be difficult and take extra time.
  • Con: While cost can vary, it is higher than traditional hearing aids and is a factor to consider. Contact your insurance company to explore coverage and discuss options with your hearing healthcare provider.

The research is promising

While there are plenty of pros and cons of cochlear implants to consider before opting for one, the good news is that ongoing research is providing even more insight into the devices and how they may work for each individual.

Research from the University of Sydney, Australia and Cochlear Limited recently explored the ability of several computer models to accurately predict how well a cochlear implant recipient was able to understand speech. While more research is needed, the findings were very promising.

“Computerized speech intelligibility models are powerful tools that allow us to evaluate how a hearing impairment may affect a cochlear implant recipient’s ability to understand speech in background noise,” Ph.D. candidate Greg Watkins from the University’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering said.

The process may take time and thoughtful consideration, but it could be a smart decision for many diagnosed with severe hearing loss.

If you or someone you know has severe hearing loss and is looking for options to hear better, it may be time to discuss cochlear implants with your hearing health care provider.


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