Nearly 3,000 Rhode Island adults have hearing loss so severe that the most powerful hearing aids on the market can’t help them.
Traditional cochlear implants
Traditional cochlear implants are designed for patients whose hearing loss is so severe that they receive little to no benefit from hearing aids. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants directly stimulate the auditory nerves and interpret sounds that hearing aids cannot detect. Cochlear implants improve hearing ability for both adults and children who have profound hearing loss.
Hybrid cochlear implants
A hybrid cochlear device greatly improves hearing for people who have some hearing function, but not enough loss to be a candidate for a traditional cochlear implant. The device is a combination of a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. The hearing aid portion maximizes residual low-frequency hearing, and the cochlear implant directly stimulates the hearing nerve in the mid- to high frequency ranges, where there is little to no residual hearing. The internal portion is placed beneath the scalp, and the external portion is worn over the ear, similar to a hearing aid.
How a cochlear implant works
Patients undergo surgery in which electrodes are attached to the cochlea, the part of the inner ear that distinguishes sound and transmits it to the brain. After surgery, an audiologist fits the patient with two small devices, a microphone and processor that are worn behind the ear. The microphone sends sounds to the processor, which transmits them to the implant. The implant transmits electrical impulses to the cochlea, which in turn sends the signals to the brain.
Adults and children 18 months or older who have severe to profound hearing loss are eligible for traditional cochlear implants.