An Intro to Cochlear Implants
For many children with a mild-to-moderate hearing loss, hearing aids may be a sufficient option for enhancing sound quality. However, in some cases, especially those in which the hearing loss is severe-to-profound, more intense intervention may be needed. In this case, an audiologist may suggest cochlear implants for your child.
When hearing aids are not providing enough of a benefit, cochlear implants may be the best option for a child who is deaf or hard of hearing.
What are Cochlear Implants?
A cochlear implant is a two-part device designed to allow for sound processing in people with hearing loss. One part is a surgically-implanted magnet that sits just below the skin in the mastoid bone - just behind the external ear. This piece connects to an electrode array that is placed into the cochlea or inner ear. The second part is a sound processor that resides externally and typically hooks over the ear. The external processor includes a magnet that connects it to the piece that sits below the skin.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
When a child with hearing loss wears a cochlear implant, the microphones on the external sound processor capture sound. The sound processor then turns this acoustic information into electrical stimulation that is sent through the internal implant and down the electrode into the cochlea. The hearing nerve in the cochlea then transmits the information to the brain, which processes the sound you hear.
The process of listening with a cochlear implant involves bypassing the part of the ear which is not functioning (typically the cochlea) at an optimal level in a person who is deaf or hard of hearing.
Why Use Cochlear Implants?
A hearing aid can be a great tool for some children with hearing loss. Children who have a mild hearing loss and retain some residual hearing may benefit from hearing aids, as these devices amplify the sound being processed naturally by the child’s ears.
However, in more severe cases, a child’s ear may be damaged or underdeveloped to the point that it is not receiving any sound. In this case, a hearing aid is not sufficient. The use of a cochlear implant allows for sound to be processed electronically, with sound being sent directly to the hearing nerve and passing over the part of the ear that is not fully functioning.
What Happens After Implantation?
After a child undergoes cochlear implant surgery, a recovery time of up to a month should be allowed. This gives ample time for healing at the incision site. A doctor will consult with you about the best course of action, but generally, strenuous activities and those which may disrupt the surgery area should be avoided. During this recovery time, the cochlear implant will not be activated, and your child will not be hearing from the implanted side.
When the recovery process is complete, an activation date will be set at which an audiologist will turn on the cochlear implant. At this time, the cochlear implants will be programmed to provide the best possible sound quality for the child. This may need to be adjusted, so keeping up with future audiological appointments is important.
What Happens After Activation?
Simply turning on a cochlear implant is not the final step in the process of enhancing listening and sound quality. The child must now learn how to listen with the new device. For this, aural rehabilitation and speech therapy, like that provided at the CCHAT Center, is hugely important.
CCHAT’s team of speech therapists helps children with cochlear implants learn how to process sound. Over time, listening and spoken language skills are developed. Intensive, early intervention is critical for children learning how to listen with their cochlear implants.
What Can Be Expected For a Child With Cochlear Implants?
With the help of a listening and spoken language program like CCHAT, children who receive cochlear implants can achieve educational outcomes on par with their hearing peers. CCHAT’s dedicated team of speech therapists, audiologists and teachers of the deaf provide top-level services for children with hearing loss.
The goal at CCHAT is to help children feel comfortable with their cochlear implant, maximize the functionality of the device, and ensure that children are equipped with the listening and spoken language skills needed to succeed. CCHAT is proud of its alumni students, many of whom wear cochlear implants and are thriving in mainstream life.
Making the Right Decision
Deciding if cochlear implants are right for your child can be difficult. It is best to consult with your audiologist and other members of your medical team. They will be able to provide you with the information needed to make the best decision for your child.
Whether your child wears hearing aids or cochlear implants, the CCHAT Center aims to help develop their listening and spoken language skills. For a full list of services provided by CCHAT, visit our Hearing Programs & School Services page. Connect with a CCHAT staff member or parent who can answer any further questions by visiting our Contact page.