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Cochlear Implants

Cochlear Implants

 When traditional hearing aids cannot improve the condition of patients with nerve deafness or severely hard-of-hearing, cochlear implants can be a last resort. From this implanted electronic hearing device both adults and children can benefit, as even though it does not give back normal hearing, it gives a sensation of environmental sounds by directly stimulating the auditory nerve. 

The complex device consists of an external and internal portion, which must be placed via cochlear implant surgery. The cochlear implant contains:

  • a microphone
  • a speech processor
  • a transmitter-stimulator
  • electrodes

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Who Can Have Cochlear Implants?

Both children and adults who are hard of hearing or suffer from profound sensori-neural deafness can be eligible for cochlear implant surgery. 

The lowest age of eligibility is 12 months, as specialists agree that early sound exposure of children is essential in the period of language acquisition. Deaf children or adults who do not know sounds at all (pre-lingually deaf) need an intensive post-surgery therapy to strengthen language and social skills. Adults who lost their hearing later in life might be able to recognize or remember sounds, by means of which their life standard significantly improves. 

With the advances of technology cochlear devices provide clearer speech sounds and enable users to hear music or make a phone call. To improve the quality of sounds and hear sounds in stereo bilateral implants are becoming widespread in developed countries. However, many doctors oppose this practice arguing that by saving the other ear, patients may have the chance to more advanced treatments available in the future. 

The Cochlear Implant Surgery 

The procedure is quite complex. Besides the operation itself extensive evaluative pre-surgery consultations are necessary and post-surgery there is a long therapeutical period, involving audiologists, speech pathologists and speech therapists. The cochlear implants and the surgery itself are safe, very few complications or problems arise after the intervention. 

Cochlear implants are placed surgically under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis or with 1-2 days of hospitalization. 

The incision is made behind the ear and drilling into the mastoid bone to place the electrodes on the cochlea. 

Risks

  • device failure
  • skin infection
  • damaged facial nerves
  • damage of the natural residual hearing

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Cochlear Implants Abroad

The procedure and the device can be expensive and health insurers may not or just partly cover the treatment. In the U.S., all costs included, cochlear implants can range between $45,000-$125,000, so patients and families often seek options of cochlear implants abroad. In the U.K, Spain, Australia and Israel social security provides full coverage for the procedure.