A cochlear implant is a tiny and complex electronic device, which helps in providing a sense of sound to people who are intensely deaf or are severely hard-of-hearing. This device works differently from the regular hearing aid, as it helps an individual with a residual hearing by directly stimulating the auditory nerve.
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Cochlear implant is one of the several ways to treat hearing loss. It is an electronic device, a part of which lies on the cochlea (inner ear) and behind the ear that helps stimulate the nerve.
A cochlear implant is advised to a person suffering from complete deafness or partial hearing loss in one or both the ears. The device is used to bypass the usual or normal mechanism by which a person is able to hear external sounds.
Cochlear implant is typically suggested to patient with sensorineural hearing loss. This condition may arise when there is a damage to the tiny hair that are present on cochlea. These tiny hears catch the vibration of an external sound and transfer it to the auditory nerve, which then sends the signal to the part of brain responsible for hearing.
In cases of damaged cochlear hair, the vibrations are not picked up and no signal is sent to the auditory nerve. In such patients, a cochlear implant can help transmit the signal directly to the auditory nerve.
A typical cochlear implant consists of two parts – one is the stimulator, while the other one is a processor.
Cochlear implant surgery takes anywhere between one to two hours and is typically conducted as an outpatient procedure. During the surgery, the surgeon first makes a small incision behind the ear to put the receiver under the skin. The receiver is then connected to electrodes that are placed in the inner ear.
The patient is sent back home after the surgery and is asked to return back after a gap of one or two weeks. This is when the second part of the cochlear implant – the processor – is connected. A microphone is placed behind the ear and the processor could be placed at the same location or somewhere else.
In the presence of a sound, the processor and the microphone picks up the sound vibrations. The vibrations are converted into electrical impulses and sent to the receiver with the help of a transmitted that codes the signals. The signals are then passed on to the electrodes attached to the cochlea.
The electrodes further stimulate the auditory or cochlear nerve. The same nerve carries the signals to the brain and the sounds are finally recognized as a sound.
Cochlear implant surgery is a safe procedure, however, it has certain risks and may result in a few complications in rare cases. Some of the possible risks and complications after cochlear implant surgery include:
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