Published: Nov. 5, 2010
Updated: Nov. 5, 2010
Duke is involved in testing a new generation of cochlear implants.
Cochlear implants are small devices that can help individuals with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss hear the world around them.
While hearing aids simply amplify sound, cochlear implants use a small computer processor convert sounds into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain, bypassing the damaged inner ear.
When sound enters the external processor (located just above the ear), it is converted into digital information and transmitted to the internal portion of the implant. The digital information then passes through electrodes that manually stimulate the tiny nerve fibers in the cochlea. These fibers send signals to the brain, where they are registered as sound.
The process happens quickly, allowing individuals with cochlear implants to hear sounds in real time, with no delay.
There are three types of cochlear implants available at Duke. Our specialized team will work with you to identify which brand will best meet your needs. The Web sites of the three companies will provide you with additional information about their products:
Cochlear implants have significant long-term success and the technology continues to improve. Updates to the device are done externally, and additional surgeries should not be necessary throughout the life of the device.
Duke specialists have developed a special hearing test that ensures an extremely low failure rate for cochlear implants. Your neurotologist and audiologist will work together to perform this test to determine if you are a good candidate for the procedure.
If a cochlear implant is the right treatment choice for you, you will have a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and a pneumovax vaccine prior to receiving your implant.
Cochlear implants are performed as an outpatient surgical procedure under general anesthesia. You will be allowed to return home the same day, and recovery time is usually quite minimal. You will receive specific post-operative care instructions prior to your surgery.
Though cochlear implantation is a generally safe procedure, as with all surgeries, there are some risks involved, including -- on rare occasions -- anesthetic complications.
There is a two-to-four week healing period before the implant is turned on. Do not expect your hearing loss to be resolved completely when the device is turned on. A series of follow-up appointments over the course of several months will be required to program and fine-tune the device to ensure the highest performance.
Your neurotologist and audiologist will work with you to learn how to use your implant and make sure that your hearing is optimized. After the initial adjustment period, the vast majority of patients enjoy long term hearing improvement with minimal complications from cochlear implants.