What is a Cochlear Implant (CI)?

A cochlear implant is an electronic device. The implant provides sound information to the brain in children and adults who have severe or profound hearing-impairment. The cochlear implant has two pieces of equipment. One piece is surgically placed. The other piece is worn externally. The cochlear implant delivers electrical stimulation to the inner ear bypassing the area of the ear that does not work.

Types of Cochlear Implants

There are three cochlear implant devices that are approved by the Federal Drug Administration; Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Corporation and Med-El. The parents of a child most often will choose which device will best meet their family’s needs. At times a specific device type is required for medical or other reasons.

Who is a Candidate for a Cochlear Implant?

  • Severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • A minimum age of twelve (12) months
  • Hearing aid use for at least six (6) months with little success
  • Family's desire for their child to be learn to hear and commit to spoken language
  • High motivation to follow with audiology and speech therapy
  • Correct educational placement
  • No medical contra-indications

Cochlear Implant Evaluation Process

To be considered for a cochlear implant a child is evaluated by several specialists. Evaluations are performed by an audiologist, a speech therapist, a specialized ear, nose and throat doctor and a radiologist. When all evaluations are complete the Utah Cochlear Implant Team determines if the patient will benefit from a cochlear implant.

How will my child respond to a cochlear implant?

Children who receive a cochlear implant experience a wide range of success. Some children hear environmental sounds. Other children are able to understand speech and are able to talk. We cannot predict how well any child will progress with a cochlear implant. A child's success depends on many factors, including:

  • The age at which the child became deaf
  • The length of time in which the child has been deaf
  • Family and educational support
  • Family's and child's motivation
  • Child's level of speech language development
  • Child's cognitive development and learning style
  • Presence of a cochlear abnormality

What to expect after receiving a cochlear implant.

About a month after surgery, the external processor is “turned on” by the audiologist. During the first year with the cochlear implant, the child will need frequent visits to a cochlear implant audiologist to “map” or program the implant. After the first year, children less than 5 years of age will have the cochlear implant programmed every 3 months. When the child reaches 5 years of age, cochlear implant programming is recommended every 6-12 months.

Following implantation intense hearing and speech therapy is a necessity. In therapy the child learns to recognize sounds from the cochlear implant and learns to speak. This therapy is called aural habilitation and is provided by a Speech Language Pathologist or other provider with specialty training. It is also helpful for young children to receive early intervention services and for school age children to receive services at their school. Therapy will include:

  • Family Education
  • Auditory awareness
  • Auditory comprehension
  • Speech perception
  • Speech production
  • Language comprehension
  • Language expression
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