Who Is a Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?
Individuals who have limited benefit from appropriately programmed hearing aids may be candidates for a cochlear implant. To officially determine whether or not a patient would benefit from a cochlear implant, a patient is first evaluated by our implant team of physicians and audiologists. Generally, this evaluation involves a very comprehensive hearing test in which we are able to measure how well you can hear using advanced hearing aid technology. If you are not a cochlear implant candidate or if you are not sure that you would like to commit to a cochlear implant, we are also happy to give you insight into your specific form of hearing loss as well as different options that may be available to you through our clinic or an audiologist with whom you have an existing relationship.
What Does Cochlear Implant Surgery Entail?
Cochlear implantation is a very routine procedure for physicians who are trained in ear surgery (otology, neurotology, and skull base surgery). Our implant surgeons are double boarded in otolaryngology and neurotology, making them true experts in this field. Decades ago, this type of surgery involved large incisions, long operative times and significant hair shaving. Today, the contemporary implant surgeon can perform the surgery in around one hour with a relatively small incision that is largely hidden by your ear and that requires little to no hair shaving. The surgery consists of making a pathway for the implant into the inner ear, which passes through the mastoid bone behind the ear. We generally insert the implant through a natural orifice in your inner ear in order to minimize cochlear trauma and maximize your hearing potential. The incision is then closed such that the implant is completely beneath the skin and invisible to the naked eye. In other words, the internal part of the device is completely implanted, such that patients are still able to participate in the same types of physical activity they have always enjoyed. In most cases, healthy patients can be discharged on the same day of surgery. Generally, patients can resume most of their normal activities in the days following surgery. The implant is not turned on until swelling around the implant in the skin and inner ear dissipates (usually two to three weeks after surgery). Thereafter, you will work with one of our specially trained cochlear implant audiologists and speech specialists on your road to hearing rehabilitation.
What Are the Benefits and Outcomes of a Cochlear Implant?
Hearing loss isolates people from society in a way that is much different than other disabilities. A cochlear implant, therefore, has the ability to dramatically affect quality of life. Not everyone performs at the same level with a cochlear implant, and it does take time for the brain to learn to interpret the sounds created by a cochlear implant. However, over time, our outcomes demonstrate that most implant recipients are able to rejoin the acoustic world in many ways, having regained the ability to communicate in person and over the phone. With practice, a cochlear implant recipient can quickly realize how many sounds and conversations they have been missing.
What Cochlear Implant Companies Are Available?
Currently, there are three FDA approved manufacturers of cochlear implants in the United States. As mentioned above, the Baylor Medicine Cochlear Implant Program routinely implants all three manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear, MED-EL.
Education resources are available both through these cochlear implant companies and our clinic. We routinely host seminars for patients who are interested in hearing rehabilitation. Please call our clinic at (713) 798-5900 if you may be interested in an opportunity to learn more!