Cochlear Implants

The Hearing Institute at ENT Specialists of the Rockies offers all FDA-approved cochlear implant devices as well as implant programming services through our Cochlear Implant Program. Cochlear Implants are designed to restore hearing in patients with severe hearing loss as well as those who are profoundly deaf. A cochlear implant may be suitable for patients with either single-sided deafness or with hearing loss in both ears. Cochlear implants allow a sound signal to bypass the inner ear and provide stimulation to the hearing nerve. If you suffer from hearing loss, are dissatisfied with your hearing aids, or are finding it increasingly ineffective in understanding speech as your hearing loss progresses, you may benefit from a cochlear implant.

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Cochlear implants are highly effective, and technological advances  in the late 20th century continue to make cochlear implants a great hearing rehabilitation solution for those who are severely hard-of-hearing. Implantation typically requires a short outpatient surgery during which a small incision is made behind the ear. A small electrode array is surgically inserted into the cochlea (the hearing organ of the inner ear) and a receiver is placed underneath the scalp behind the ear. An externally worn speech processor is secured by a magnet and worn behind the ear. Sound waves are detected, processed, and passed to the electrode as an electric signal, which then stimulates the auditory (hearing) nerve to produce hearing.

There are three FDA-approved manufacturers of cochlear implants in the United States: Cochlear Corporation, Med El, and Advanced Bionics. A fourth manufacturer, Oticon, will also soon have an FDA-approved device. At our Hearing Institute, we offer all FDA-approved cochlear implants and will work closely with you to determine which device is most appropriate for your hearing and your lifestyle. All of the audiologists at our Hearing Institute are trained in cochlear implant programming and mapping for all FDA-approved devices.

Hybrid Implantable Systems

Some patients have severe hearing loss or deafness in high frequencies (high pitched sounds) but have preserved hearing in the low frequencies (lower-pitched sounds). In select cases, a hybrid cochlear implant may allow one to use the cochlear implant for their high-frequency hearing loss and a hearing aid simultaneously for their low-frequency hearing loss. This allows people to preserve and amplify natural low-frequency hearing while still gaining the benefits of improved speech understanding provided by the cochlear implant.

Cochlear Implants in Denver, CO

The experts at our Hearing Institute are well-versed in the full spectrum of treatment options for patients suffering from hearing loss. From basic hearing aids to cochlear implants, our solutions have helped hundreds achieve a better quality of life through better hearing.

If you currently have a cochlear implant, we offer programming services for all manufacturers. To learn more about these hearing implants and to find out which may be right for your unique needs, call us or contact us online today to schedule an appointment.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear Implants are surgically implantable hearing devices that are designed to restore hearing in patients with severe degrees of hearing loss who no longer receive benefit from a hearing aid.

Who is a candidate for a Cochlear Implant?

To determine Cochlear Implant candidacy, an audiologist and ear surgeon must do a thorough evaluation consisting of a medical and audiologic workup. Patients with severe degrees of hearing loss who are not receiving benefit from hearing aids are usually referred for a “Cochlear Implant Evaluation,” during which specialized audiologic tests are performed while the patient wears their hearing aids. The performance on the Cochlear Implant Evaluation determines candidacy.

How does a Cochlear Implant Work?

Cochlear Implants function by converting sound input into electrical impulses for the hearing nerve. Therefore, Cochlear Implants do not restore “normal” hearing, they are a highly effective in allowing patients to have improved hearing, communication, and speech recognition. An externally worn microphone and speech processor transmits sound information to the internal component, which sends the encoded electrical signal to the hearing nerve.

What does a Cochlear Implant sound like?

Sounds perceived from a cochlear implant evolve over time, as the hearing nerve and brain learns a new form of hearing. It is important to recognize that hearing with a cochlear implant is a process that requires patience and motivation. Initially, some patients perceive distorted or “robotic” type sounds; as you continue to use the device, the cochlear implant gradually sounds more natural. Some patients may “feel” a sensation when the device is initially activated, and it may take some time before actual auditory perception is experienced. Although the sound is not equivalent to normal hearing, many long-term cochlear implant recipients report that the sound quality is natural.

How soon can you hear with a Cochlear Implant?

Typically, a cochlear implant is “activated,” or turned on, by your audiologist several weeks after the surgery. Over a period of weeks to months, your hearing nerve and brain will learn to interpret the electrical impulses from the device and perceive sound.

What sounds can be heard with a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear Implants are designed to improve speech perception in patients with severe degrees of hearing loss, however, a wide range of sound (e.g., environmental sounds) can be perceived.

How well does a Cochlear Implant work?

Speech recognition performance, which is measured with speech perception testing, varies between individuals. With time and practice using the device (hearing rehabilitation), the majority of patients can recognize and understand speech better than they could with their hearing aids.

Are Cochlear Implants safe?

Cochlear implants are safe and effective implantable hearing devices. They have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in both children and adults. Cochlear implants have been in use since the 1970s.

Can someone be too old for a Cochlear Implant?

Older adults with severe degrees of hearing loss may benefit greatly from a Cochlear Implant. Studies have demonstrated that elderly patients perform just as well with a Cochlear Implant as younger patients. Sometimes, medical factors (e.g., severe comorbidities or significant cognitive impairment) may result in your doctor recommending against a Cochlear Implant.

How long does a Cochlear Implant Last?

Each cochlear implant device is designed to last a lifetime. The externally worn processor, which converts sound into an electric signal for the internal component, can be easily upgraded (i.e., without a second operation) as technology evolves. Rarely, there may be a hardware of software failure, requiring removal and/or replacement.

Should I wait for a technology upgrade to get a Cochlear Implant?

Waiting for newer technology is not recommended, because the design and mechanics of the implanted component of the device have changed minimally in the last several decades. The externally worn processor can be upgraded as technology becomes available.

Can I use a hearing aid with a Cochlear Implant?

Some patients who have severe hearing loss in the high frequencies (high-pitched sounds) but preserved hearing in the low frequencies (low-pitched sounds) after cochlear implant surgery can use both a cochlear implant and hearing aid in the same ear. Electrical impulses from the implant supply hearing for the high frequencies while the low frequencies are amplified by a traditional hearing aid.

What is a Hybrid Cochlear Implant?

A Hybrid Cochlear Implant is a device in which a cochlear implant and a hearing aid can be used in the same ear. These devices are for patients who have severe hearing loss in the high frequencies (high-pitched sounds) but preserved hearing in the low frequencies (low-pitched sounds).

Can I use a Cochlear Implant with normal hearing in the opposite ear?

Patients who only have severe hearing loss in one ear may be candidates for cochlear implantation. These patients, who have “single-sided deafness,” may use a cochlear implant in the deaf ear while having normal hearing in the other ear. If the better hearing ear has milder degrees of hearing loss, a hearing aid may be used as well. Cochlear implants were approved by the Food and Drug Administration for single-sided deafness for patients ages 5 and older.

Can I use a Cochlear Implant with a hearing aid in the opposite ear?

Patients who only have severe hearing loss in one ear with milder degrees of hearing loss in their other ear may be candidates for cochlear implantation. These patients, who have “asymmetric hearing loss,” may use a cochlear implant in the deaf ear while using a hearing aid in their better hearing ear. This is called “bimodal” stimulation, and studies have shown that patients with bimodal stimulation have improved sound localization and speech recognition in the setting of background noise. Cochlear implants were approved by the Food and Drug Administration for asymmetric hearing loss for patients ages 5 and older.

Are Cochlear Implants MRI compatible?

Older cochlear implants were not compatible with MRIs because the internal component contains a magnet. However, newer devices are MRI compatible with most MRI machines.

Can patients with Cochlear Implants go swimming or get their ear wet?

After healing from surgery, patients with cochlear implants can swim, bathe, and participate in water activities if they are not wearing the external component of the device.

Can patients with Cochlear Implants participate in sports?

After healing from surgery, patients with cochlear implants can participate in almost all sports activities if they are not wearing the external component of the device. Protective is recommended for sports in which head impacts are anticipated.

Can I fly in an airplane after Cochlear Implantation?

After hearing from surgery, patients with cochlear implants can travel on airplanes. You will need to bring your cochlear implant identification card and show it to the airport security officials, because the implant may set off security detectors.

Can I sleep with a Cochlear Implant on?

The externally worn component must be taken off before sleeping.

How much does a Cochlear Implant cost?

To determine the cost of a Cochlear Implant, patients need to contact their health insurance provider. Your audiologist or surgeon’s scheduler may be able to help identify the correct diagnoses and procedure to report to the insurance company.

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