Cochlear implants are FDA-approved, surgically implanted devices that provide individuals with severe hearing loss access to speech and environmental sounds. Cochlear implants are typically used when hearing loss is so severe that conventional hearing aids do not allow an individual to access sounds or do not provide sufficient clarity for understanding speech. Hearing aids rely on hair cells in the inner ear to send the signal to the brain. In individuals with severe to profound hearing loss, the hair cells are no longer functioning well. Cochlear implants bypass the absent or poorly functioning hair cells and electrically stimulate the auditory nerve directly, which can give individuals the clarity in speech and sound that hearing aids cannot offer in these individuals.
Cochlear implants change acoustic sounds to electrical impulses that are delivered to the auditory nerve via an implanted electrode array in the cochlea (organ of hearing). After receiving the implant:
- An external device, known as the sound processor, is placed on or near the ear and collects the sound. It is then converted into an electrical signal that travels through a transmitting coil that sends the sound to an internal device. The coil is typically held in place on the head with a magnet.
- The internal receiver receives the signal from the external speech processor and converts it to electrical impulses that stimulate the auditory nerve and brain to recreate the original sound.
To be considered for a cochlear implant, you will need:
- Pre-candidacy hearing evaluation and speech recognition testing with and without hearing aids.
- Otologic examination from an otolaryngologist.
- Computerized Tomography (CT) scans and/or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI).
Other evaluations may be recommended by your Weill Cornell Medicine cochlear implant team.