FAQs about Cochlear Implants
How do people hear?
Hearing is a complicated process. Sound signals in the environment funnel into the ear, where a series of reactions convert acoustic energy into electrical impulses that the brain can understand. The body reacts to sound so quickly, we are able to listen in real time.
For a more detailed explanation about how hearing works, please see the section “How Hearing Works.”
How does a cochlear implant work?
Cochlear implants help people with severe to profound hearing loss because they bypass the non-functioning part of the inner ear, and deliver sound directly to the auditory nerve. Sound signals are collected by the audio processor (external portion) and are sent to the implant located underneath the skin behind the ear. An electrode array that is surgically implanted in the inner ear stimulates the nerve to allow the user to hear.
For a more detailed explanation about how cochlear implants work, please see the section “How Cochlear Implants Work.”
What are cochlear implants made of?
The PULSAR is made of highly robust ceramic while the SONATA is made of durable titanium. Both materials are completely biocompatible and feature the exact same I100 electronics platform. Since the only difference between the two implants is the housing material and size, the choice of which MED-EL implant to use is generally left to the surgeon.
What is the difference between a hearing aid and
a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is completely different from a hearing aid. While hearing aids amplify sounds to a level audible for people with hearing impairment, cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear, directly stimulating the auditory nerve.
For adults with severe to profound hearing loss, cochlear implants can help to regain a sense that they have come to rely upon to communicate with and participate in the hearing world. Cochlear implants may help children born without the sense of hearing to grow up and be active in the hearing world. In addition, unlike hearing aids, learning to use a cochlear implant is a process that requires extensive (re)habilition.
- Do I / Does my child need a cochlear implant?
Is my child too young to receive a
Studies have shown that children implanted at an early age often have a distinct advantage in speech and language development. These children develop age appropriate speech and language at a faster rate when given appropriate aural habilitation. Age of implantation is dependent on the individual patient, the advice of your doctor and local practice. Please consult your physician, local cochlear implant centre, or ENT specialist for more information.
I am 75 years old, am I too old for a
There are no age restrictions for receiving a cochlear implant. Learning to use your new ears is a process. Willingness to participate in rehabilitation programs to develop listening skills is important for every candidate at any age.
I have severe hearing loss in both ears; do I need
one or two implants?
The majority of implanted individuals worldwide use one implant. However, studies show that there are benefits to bilateral implantation.* These may include the ability to localize sounds, hear better in difficult listening situations etc. Also, many parents report that bilaterally implanted children are better able to concentrate in school and that they are less tired from social interaction when using two implants.
*For more information on studies surrounding the benefits of bilateral implantation, please follow the above link.
- How do I get a cochlear implant?
What are the tests needed to determine if I or my
child needs a cochlear implant?
If you suspect that you or your child has a hearing loss, the first step is to contact an Otologist (Ear Specialist) who offers cochlear implantation for evaluation.
Candidacy evaluation involves assessment by several professionals. An audiologist will assess hearing sensitivity both with and without hearing aids, and will assess the candidate’s ability to understand speech. There are many different hearing tests that could be administered, depending on the age and ability of the candidate. The otologist will evaluate the ear and try to determine whether there is any other treatment that might be more appropriate. He or she will also determine whether the candidate is able to safely undergo a surgery. You may meet with a rehabilitation specialist to determine what help will be necessary to adjust to the implant.
At some point during the process, most candidates undergo a CT or MRI scan to allow the surgeon to assess the inner ear anatomy. Other medical evaluation may be required depending on the candidate’s history.
What is an audiogram?
Hearing function is typically charted on an audiogram. An audiogram is a visual representation of your or your child’s hearing. A typical audiogram shows the softest sounds that can be heard at different pitches (frequencies). The softest sound a person is able to hear is called the hearing threshold. To see an example of an audiogram, click here.
How safe is the cochlear implant surgery?
Risks for cochlear implant surgery are comparable to most ear surgeries. Patients should consult a medical professional for further information on possible risks. The small dimension of MED-EL cochlear implants allow them to be implanted during surgery that is minimally invasive.
How long will the implant surgery last?
A typical implant surgery can last from 1-3 hours or longer. Patients are often up and about the next day. Length of stay in the hospital can vary from one to several days depending upon local practice.
How does Electric Acoustic Stimulation (EAS)
EAS* is the combination of cochlear implant technology and acoustic amplification in one device and is indicated for people with partial deafness, a condition defined as a mild to moderate low frequency sensorineural hearing loss sloping to a profound hearing loss in the higher frequencies. The cochlear implant component stimulates the part of the cochlea responsible for high frequency sounds while the acoustic component amplifies, or turns up the volume on the low frequency sounds, thus taking advantage of a person’s natural residual hearing. For more information on EAS, please click here.
*EAS is under clinical trial in the USA
Will my implant be affected by metal detectors or
The function of your implant will not be affected by metal detectors or screeners. However, because the implant contains some parts that may be detected, MED-EL will provide you with a special ID card to use at security checkpoints.
Will my child be able to live an active lifestyle and
participate in sports with a cochlear implant?
Yes, children with cochlear implants lead very normal lives with few restrictions. Although your ENT professional is the best resource for individualized recommendations, we generally recommend that a helmet is worn in situations where a helmet would normally be used. It is important to protect the implanted area from a blow to the head. External equipment should be removed before participating in water sports or playing on plastic playground equipment that can generate high levels of static electricity.
Can I undergo X-ray, CT Scan or MRI even if I
have an implant?
Users of MED-EL cochlear implants may undergo Xray and CT scanning. MED-EL cochlear implants are safe for MRI scanning without surgical removal of the magnet under special circumstances. Please click here for detailed information on the conditions required for MRI scanning.
Can I use mobile phones with my audio
Yes, many people use mobile phones normally with their cochlear implants. For some, it may be necessary or simply more comfortable to use an Assistive Listening Device (ALD) or telecoil with the phone.
- Can I use an FM System with my audio processor?
Can I connect with telecoil systems with my audio
Yes. All MED-EL processors are telecoil compatible. A telecoil is a special sensor that allows hearing aids and audio processors to pick up signals directly from a compatible telephone handset. It allows the listener to hear the phone without any competing noise that might be in the user’s environment.
With the OPUS 2 processor, the telecoil is built into the audio processor, which allows the user to enjoy telecoil functionality on all programs, without the use of patch cords or other accessories.
I am using another brand of cochlear implant on
one side, can I have a MED-EL implant on the
Yes, some people decide to become bilaterally implanted with a different device, or replace a non-functioning device with different technology. However, the user must keep in mind that different brands of systems may have different batteries, battery lifetimes, accessories and attachments, etc. The OPUS processor has an industry-leading 3-5 days’ battery life and offers a rechargeable option as well. The switch-free design, on-board telecoil, and long battery life ensure that it is the most worry-free audio processor available.