How Do Cochlear Implants Work?
Hearing loss is often caused by problems in the cochlea, snail-shaped tubes inside the inner ears that hold thousands of hearing receptors called hair cells. Healthy hair cells send sound signals to the brain through the auditory nerve. When hair cells are missing at birth or damaged by an illness, injury, or medications, it affects our ability to hear.
A cochlear implant works by bypassing the damaged cochlea. It has two parts. The external part -- called a speech processor -- picks up speech and other sounds and turns them into an electrical signal. The speech processor sends the signal to the internal part, which is implanted in the bone right behind the ear. The internal part then sends the signal directly to the auditory nerve, which delivers sound information to the brain.
Is Your Child a Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?
Children must meet FDA eligibility criteria to receive a cochlear implant. They must:
- Be 12 months of age or older (earlier implantation is possible under certain conditions)
- Have severe or profound hearing loss in both ears caused by a problem with the cochlea
- Receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
- Be healthy enough to have surgery