Cochlear implants can be a life-changing procedure for children or adults who have certain specific kinds of hearing loss, but the process involves multiple visits to a variety of specialists that can span several months. Follow-up visits are also required after the procedure is complete. There are many treatment centers that offer cochlear implants across the US, but travel may be required to get to one of these treatment centers from your home. While the treatment is covered by many insurance plans, travel expenses are not covered. Careful planning is required to minimize the travel costs.
If you already know where you will be going for a cochlear implant, or a consult or second opinion, click here to plan your travel. Otherwise, click here to get information about facilities that specialize in cochlear implants.
If you cannot afford travel for medical treatment, please consult our directory of charitable organizations that can help arrange no-cost transportation for you.
For more information: (links to the sections below)
- About the cochlear implant
- Where to go for a cochlear implant?
- How the cochlear implant technology works?
- What is involved in the process of getting a cochlear implant?
- Who can go for cochlear implant?
About the cochlear implant
A cochlear implant is a device that gives direct stimulation to the hearing nerve in the inner ear. This device replaces the functions of the damaged inner parts of the ear. There are people that have a hearing problem and can’t be helped with hearing aids. Hearing aids work by making the sound louder. This will not help if organs in the ear are not functioning well or have failed. In such a case a cochlear implant comes in to solve the problem.
A cochlear implant works by stimulating the auditory nerve directly. By doing this the implant is able to pass sound directly to the brain. The benefits derived from a cochlear implant will depend on these three major factors.
- The age of the patient
- The time when language skills developed (after hearing loss or before hearing loss)
- The inspiration of the patient and family
This amazing technology is helpful in many ways. It can help the patients who are:
- With hearing loss in both ears (moderate to profound)
- The sentence recognition is low (score 50% or less in the ear to be implanted)
- Having no benefits from hearing aids
Where to go for a cochlear implant?
There are many centers around the country that can perform cochlear implants. You can travel for Cochlear Implant to reach these centers. In these centers there are professionals that work closely with the patients and their families. They walk together from the start by determining the candidate to the end process, which is mainly patient follow up care.
The team of professionals is made that includes an audiologist, otologist, psychologist, counselor and a speech language pathologist. The audiologist will do tests on how the patient perceives sound and the levels involved. The otologist is the ear surgeon that performs the surgery.
The psychologist will check on the mental status of the patients when they handle the surgery. The counselor is in place to explain to the patient the process, what is expected of it, the benefits to expect after a successful surgery and what the implant will not be able to do.
How the cochlear implant technology works?
A cochlear implant has sound processor as well as the Cochlear implant all which work together to enable the user perceives sound. The sound processor is found outside the ear while the Cochlear implant is found within the ear.
- Sound processor
These include the microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter. The microphone picks up sound and sends it to the speech processor. The speech processor is a computer that analyzes and digitalizes sound signals before sending them to a transmitter. It is the transmitter that will send the signals to the receiver under the skin.
- Cochlear implant
The Cochlear implants are those that are implanted. They include a receiver and electrodes. The receiver takes the coded messages from the transmitter to the range of electrodes that have been implanted to the cochlear surgically. The electrodes then finally stimulate the fibers in the auditory nerve enabling perception of sound.
What is involved in the process of getting a cochlear implant?
The process begins when a potential patient is referred to a cochlear implant center. Upon reaching, the medical tests are done to determine if the candidate needs the implant. These tests may include audiologic tests, psychological tests, a medical examination and tests by the surgeon. These tests are done to ensure the patient is of the right choice and will gain from the implant.
These tests actually prepare the patient for the surgery. They inspire them which make the patient understand and accept what is going to be performed on them. After a decision has been reached upon by both the patient and the specialists the next step is to get the surgery done.
The operation may be on an outpatient basis or will involve the patient spending the night at the center. However, after 4 to 6 weeks depending on the date set by the surgeon the patient returns to the center for mapping. This involves fitting the microphone and the speech processor. Further visits are necessary for activating, adjusting and setting the required programming to the speech processor.
During this process patients are taught how to handle and use the implant. Responding to the sounds received is also taught. The whole process is important for the implant to perform its intended function properly.
Remember! ‘The patient’s cooperation is the key in making the whole process a success.’
Who can go for cochlear implant?
- People with severe to profound hearing loss. These people do not benefit from the available standard hearing aids. The operation is the only way such people can be hear.
- People with a short period of being deaf. Children born deaf benefit more from the implant. They receive the implant as soon as they are old enough to be operated on.
- Adults that becomes deaf. They gain too many complications in hearing that no hearing aid is working on them. They really respond well to cochlear implants.
- Anybody having too little auditory experience (they are deaf for long time). The auditory pathways in people with a long period of being deaf tend to be fixed to a non-hearing pathway. This makes it hard for the brain to adapt and return to a hearing pathway. This however varies from one person to another.
When it comes to dealing with adults the candidates suited for a cochlear implant are:
- Have extreme hearing issues in both ears.
- Have a minimal exposure to hearing aid
- Lack any medical condition that may make the cochlear implant risky
- Have a desire to hear and talk
- Have lost their hearing after language development and speech
With children it is a bit different. Cochlear implants can be done to them at a tender age before language development. The chances of a successful implant at young age are more. However, it is agreed that children fit for a cochlear implant are:
- The ones with difficulty in hearing in both ears
- The ones with a limited hearing aid experience
- Healthy with no condition that would make the surgery risky
- Willing to be rehabilitated
- Supported by the education program for auditory skills