Getting to Know a Cochlear Implant for Better Hearing

Impaired or even completely lost hearing can make it difficult for a person to communicate. To improve the problem of hearing function, the installation of a cochlear implant can be one solution.

A cochlear implant is a medical procedure in which special electronic devices are inserted to help people with severe hearing loss or deafness be able to hear.

The type of deafness that can be helped with this tool is sensorineural deafness, which is deafness that occurs due to disturbances in the cells in the inner ear or nerve tissue that plays a role in the hearing process.

How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

Cochlear implants work by capturing sound and processing it into electrical impulses so that it can be delivered to the auditory nerve in the ear to the brain. With the installation of a cochlear implant, hearing function in people who have difficulty hearing or the deaf can be helped.

A cochlear implant consists of several components that work together to support the hearing process. These components are divided into two parts, namely the outer part which is positioned behind the ear and the inner part which is implanted in the auditory nerve behind the eardrum.

The following are the components of a cochlear implant and their functions:

Microphone: This tool serves to capture sound from the surrounding environment.

Sound processor: This part of the cochlear implant functions to regulate and convert the captured sound waves into digital signals.

Stimulator sound stimulation: After the sound is converted into a digital signal, the signal will be converted by the stimulator into an electrical stimulus to be forwarded to the auditory nerve and processed in the brain.

Electrodes: This section serves to receive electrical stimulation from the stimulator to deliver it to the auditory nerve.

Cochlear implants are surgically implanted. One month after the cochlear implant is placed, the doctor will usually install a microphone and sound processor in the implant so that hearing can begin to function.

Cochlear implant users may hear a sound for some time after the entire device is inserted and activated. However, some implant users may feel that the sound heard with a cochlear implant initially resembles a ‘beep’ or indistinct sound.

Therefore, patients undergoing cochlear implants need to be patient and continue to follow the advice and exercise program recommended by the doctor so that their hearing ability can return to function.

Who Can Use a Cochlear Implant?

The procedure for implanting a cochlear implant can be performed on people with severe or total hearing loss, ranging from children aged 1 year to adults.

Cochlear implant placement is usually performed on adults who meet the following requirements:

1. Suffering from severe deafness or total deafness in both ears that interferes with the ability to speak
2. Suffering from severe deafness that is not helped by hearing aids
3. Have a good health condition or do not suffer from other health problems that can increase the risk of surgical complications
4. Have a good motivation to be able to hear and understand the limitations and risks of cochlear implants

While in children, it is better to install a cochlear implant when they are under 5 years old and in the absence of certain conditions that can increase the risk of complications due to surgery.

To develop communication and learning skills, children who undergo cochlear implant surgery need support from the people around them, especially parents, teachers, and speech therapists.

The younger the age of the total deaf patient using a cochlear implant, the greater the effectiveness of this device in improving the patient’s hearing function and communication skills.

A study even found that the installation of cochlear implants in children before the age of 18 months was able to provide significant improvements in children’s listening, speaking, learning, and developmental abilities.

What are the Advantages and Risks of Using a Cochlear Implant?

After having a cochlear implant, people who have severe hearing loss or are severely deaf can benefit from the following:

1. Can almost hear sounds normally
2. Can understand speech without reading lips
3. It’s easier to talk on the phone and enjoy shows on TV
4. Can hear music and enjoy TV shows better
5. Able to hear sounds with different frequencies and volumes
6. You can adjust your own voice when you speak so you can communicate better

In general, a cochlear implant is a safe procedure to perform. However, the cochlear implant surgery procedure also has some risks, including:

1. Bleeding
2. Infections, such as infections of the surgical site or meningitis
3. Side effects of anesthesia during and after surgery
4. Nerve injury that impairs the sense of taste or facial muscles
5. Dizziness or balance disorders
6. Permanent deafness that is not helped by cochlear implants
7. Tinnitus or ringing in the ears

Cochlear implants can indeed be one way to help deaf or severely deaf patients to hear better.

However, keep in mind that the success of a cochlear implant in restoring hearing function may vary from patient to patient. This tool also cannot restore the ability to hear to be completely normal.

Therefore, the consideration of cochlear implant placement should be preceded by a medical examination and hearing test by an ENT specialist. After the examination is carried out, the doctor will determine whether the patient is a good candidate for cochlear implant surgery.

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