The cochlea is the organ within the inner ear responsible for receiving and transmitting sound signals to the brain via the cochlear nerve. If the hair receptor cells within the cochlea are damaged, signals may not make it to the cochlear nerve or the brain, resulting in difficulty hearing.
A cochlear implant is a medical device that takes over the function of damaged hair receptor cells. If the ear has functioning nerves to transmit messages to the brain, the implant can provide significant benefits.
How do the implants work?
- An electronic medical device is implanted within the inner ear, with an external sound processor placed near the outer ear.
- The sound processor captures sounds and converts them into digital codes, which are transmitted to the implant within the inner ear via a coil.
- The implant converts the sound signals into electrical impulses, which can be sent along an array of electrodes that are located near the hearing nerves
- The impulses are sent along these nerves, to the brain, where they can then be interpreted.
Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?
These complex hearing devices are typically recommended to people who have experienced a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears, due to problems within their inner ear. They can provide solutions to those who do not experience benefits from hearing aids, due to their poor speech discrimination. Young children are excellent candidates, as cochlear implants encourage increased sound stimulation during early childhood development.