Cochlear Implants FAQs
While hearing aids help many with hearing loss there are some for whom hearing aids either do not help or help insufficiently. In such cases, cochlear implants can be helpful and are being used by more people with severe and profound hearing loss who no longer benefit from hearing aids.
What is a Cochlear Implant?
Cochlear implants were developed in the 1960s to help assist those with severe hearing loss and they have been FDA-approved since 1985. While cochlear implants do not restore hearing, they do provide a person with severe to profound hearing loss an enormous benefit by providing auditory stimulation that was unachievable with hearing aids alone.
A cochlear implant consists of a microphone and speech processor worn outside the body, similar to a hearing aid, as well as a transmitter that is surgically placed below the skin behind the ear. This transmitter sends impulses to electrodes implanted in the cochlea which then travel up to the auditory nerve to the brain. While this device does not restore hearing it does allow a person to perceive sounds.
Are Cochlear Implants Similar to Hearing Aids?
Both hearnig aids and cochlear implants help individuals with hearing loss but do so in different ways. Hearing aids make sounds louder wheras cochlear implants are surgically implanted beneath the skin and it sends impulses directly to your auditory nerve which carries sound signals to your brain.A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged areas of the cochlea and may provide improved hearing abilities for speech understanding and the perception of music and environmental sounds.
Do Cochlear Implants Restore Normal Hearing? Do Cochlear Implants Cure Deafness?
These devices do not help you hear normally again but most people who have cochlear implants are able to hear sounds and speech better than they did with a hearing aid. A cochlear implant does not cure deafness but it is a prosthetic substitute which directly stimulates the cochlea.
Who is Eligible for a Cochlear Implant?
In general both adults and children as young as 12 months of age may be eligible for cochlear implants.
Adults who have severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears and only benefitted minimally from hearing aids may qualify as a candidate for cochlear implants.
Children as young as 12 months of age with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and who demonstrate little progress in the development of auditory skills may also be good candidates for cochlear implants. Children witha severe to profound hearing loss should be evaluated for cochlear implants as soon as possible as the outcomes for children with cochlear implants are significantly better with children who receive them at the earliest possible age.
What are the Benefits of Cochlear Implants?
While the results aren’t the same for everyone, getting cochlear implants can be life-changing for people with severe hearing loss. Below are a few of the benefits of cochlear implants:
- You may be able to hear speech at a nearly normal level
- You may be able to understand speech without lip reading
- You can better control your own voice so that it’s easier for others to understand you
- You can pick up different types of sounds including soft, medium and loud ones
- It’s easier to talk on the phone and hear the TV
- You may be able to hear music better than before
Are Cochlear Implants Covered by Insurance?
More than 90% of commercial health insurance policies or health plans provide full or partial coverage for cochlear implant surgery.
Some health plans do not actually list cochlear implants as a covered benefit but make sure to read the coverage on your policy for prosthetics/orthotics as cochlear implants fall into this category. If you meet the policy’s prosthetics/orthotics requirements then your insurance should cover the cost of your cochlear implants. A common reason for denial is your insurance inaccurately categorizing them as hearing aids. On-going costs after getting cochlear implants include batteries, cables, and other supplies. Sometimes your insurance will cover these costs as well.
What Type of Results Should I Expect? Do They Really Work?
As with any medical procedure, the results of implantation cannot be predicted prior to surgery and recipients may experience a wide range of outcomes. While many factors affect outcomes for both children and adults, typically, the younger a child who was born deaf is implanted, the greater the benefit achieved in the areas of speech perception and speech and language development.
After using the cochlear implant for several months or more, cochlear implant recipients often report that they perceive speech to be more natural or closer to their memory of familiar sounds.
Can Children Get Cochlear Implants?
The FDA says children can get the devices starting at age 1. Most kids who are diagnosed with significant hearing loss as babies get them as soon as possible. A cochlear implant in early childhood exposes children to sound during the critical period when they learn speech and language skills. A study found that children who got a cochlear implant before 18 months old had major improvements in their hearing, speaking, and learning.
Are Cochlear Implants Safe? What are the Risks?
Cochlear implant surgery is very safe, but any operation comes with risks. Problems can include bleeding, infections, and side effects from the medicine that sends you to sleep during the procedure.
How Long Have Cochlear Implants Been Available?
The FDA first approved cochlear implant devices for adults in 1985 and in 1990 they approved them for children. More than 219,000 individuals worldwide have received cochlear implants to help with their hearing loss and hearing impairment.
Are Cochlear Implants Waterproof?
Waterproof or water resistant devices are now available.
Have more questions?
If you have additional questions about cochlear implants or cochlear implant surgery, call one of our Manhattan or Staten Island offices today.