The doors to the world of listening with Cochlear Implants

October 12, 2017 Lifestyle Diseases 10552 Views


Scene 1

2-year-old Karen is crying at her nursery, her classmate Rafiq is trying to comfort her. But Karen has turned her face away and neither of them is able to fathom what the other child is saying. It’s only when Karen looks at him again, does she realize that Rafiq is trying to communicate. She places her fingers on his mouth as his lips move, trying to discern the words that seem to evaporate in the air, words she can’t hear.

Scene 2

5-year-old Karen is taking music lessons from a well-known piano teacher! She’s able to distinguish each and every note and music fills the room as well as the world of the Fernandes family. Karen is able to enjoy music like any other normal child, thanks to a successful cochlear implant, through which just a small electronic device put in the ear brings alive the magic of sound. In a cochlear implant, this device helps to provide sound signals to the brain, it bypasses the cells of the inner ear.

Recalls her mom, Gretel. “We were aware of the fact that doctors do cochlear implants on one-year-old babies. But we were just too afraid to go through it. We toyed with the idea of making Karen wear a hearing aid for a few years and taught her sign language. But it was sheer torture to see her languish in a world devoid of sound. We died a little each time, we went out, when as an infant she could see everything going on around her, like a silent movie and hear absolutely nothing.”

There are some who have had bilateral cochlear implants, meaning implants in both ears. But how does one choose cochlear implant over say a hearing aid? A cochlear implant comes to the aid of those who don’t benefit from hearing aids, as the latter only magnifies sound. Providing better hearing helps cochlear implant score over a hearing aid. However, the benefits of a cochlear implant vary from individual to individual. The contributing factors are:

Some Important Factors

  • Duration of hearing loss before the implant
  • The severity of hearing loss
  • The condition of the cochlea or inner ear
  • Medical conditions

While thousands have benefitted from this 60-70 minute now-routinely-done procedure, it involves a significant amount of teamwork with audiologists and between speech therapists. The doctors carry out an evaluation process, containing the patient’s history, radiographic studies, etc. At this stage, audiologists may repeat the tests. A CT scan is used to reveal the condition of the cochlea. At times, an MRI replaces a CT scan. For children, separate speech and language evaluation need to be conducted.

Immediately, after the surgery, the patient may experience dizziness, nausea and feel disoriented temporarily. But the patients can leave for home within a day after being given instructions about how to take post-operative care of cochlear implants, stitches, diet and using the device on a daily basis.

But the patient will not be able to hear immediately after the surgery by an Ear-Nose-Throat Specialist. There’s a waiting period. And this waiting period is vital: It’s essential, for the incision to heal completely. After this span of 3-6 weeks, when the swelling has subsided, the device can be fitted. So when the external transmitter is given maybe a month after the surgery, and the sound processor adjusted, the magic begins…

This modern marvel has behind it a fascinating history of evolution!  Dr. William F House, a medical researcher, Prof Graeme Clark, a pioneer, invented the cochlear implant.

Graham Carrick could hear within fifteen minutes of the cochlear implant being switched on. This was not too long ago, in October 1982. Imagine the joy of Mr. Carrick when he heard for the first time in seventeen years! Since then more than 200,000 people all over the world have benefitted and lived complete lives resonating with sound, song, and music.

For more information on cochlear implant, contact ENT specialist near you. 

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