What are cochlear implants?
Cochlear implants are electrical devices that stimulate the hearing organ or cochlea so that people with profound deafness are able to hear again.
How do they work?
The device consists of an electrode array that is inserted into the cochlea and is attached to an electronics package that is placed under the skin just behind the ear. This communicates with a hearing aid-like device that is placed behind the ear in the same way as an ordinary hearing aid. Sound is picked by microphones in the external part and transferred as an electrical signal to the internal electronic part. This processes the sound and transfers it to the cochlea where the electrical signal is interpreted by the brain as sound.
What kinds of people require implants?
Children born profoundly deaf and adults who become profoundly deaf are the usual people who may be considered for a cochlear implant. Children implanted at a very young age are able to develop normal speech and attend normal schools whereas in the past they would have had deaf speech and relied on sign language. Adults who are implanted are often able to use the telephone again and take part in normal day to day conversations.
How safe are they?
The cochlear implant is extremely safe and very simple to use. The procedure to insert one only takes an hour and half and is also very safe.