What is a cochlear implant?
It is an electronic device that is used to restore hearing in individuals who have severe sensory hearing loss by electrically stimulating the cochlear nerve.
How does it work?
A cochlear implant consists of an external component called the speech processor and an internal component called the receiver. The speech processor is fit behind your ear and the receiver is surgically implanted beneath the skin behind the ear and inserted into your cochlea (snail-shaped inner-ear). The speech processor will capture the sound signals and convey the signals to the receiver electrode that is inserted into the cochlea to stimulate the auditory nerve. These signals will then lead to the brain where it interprets as sound.
Why do you need a cochlear implant?
Your audiologist might recommend a cochlear implant if you have profound hearing loss despite wearing a hearing aid and rely completely on lip reading. A hearing aid is a device that goes into your ear which is used to amplify the sounds to make it louder if you have a mild to moderate hearing loss. Whereas a cochlear implant is used when you have severe sensorineural hearing loss which bypasses the inner ear damage and directly stimulates the auditory nerve to restore hearing.
How is this procedure done?
The procedure is usually done in a clinic or a hospital under general anaesthesia which usually lasts for around two to four hours. Your surgeon will make an incision behind the ear and open the mastoid bone to identify the facial nerve and to create access to open the cochlea. The receiver will be secure in the skull behind the ear and the electrode will be inserted into the cochlea. Then the incision will be closed with sutures. You will be able to go home the same day after a few hours of observation in the recovery room. The implant device will be activated once the surgical site is healed which usually takes around four to six weeks. During this time, the external component consisting of a microphone and a speech processor is attached behind the ear and activated to generate the receiver to stimulate the cochlear nerve.
How much does the procedure cost?
In India, it costs more than INR 400,000.