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Health Information For Parents
A cochlear implant is a surgically placed device that helps a person with severe hearing loss hear sounds.
The cochlea is a snail-shaped part of the inner ear. It turns sound vibrations into electrical signals that travel along the auditory (hearing) nerve. The brain translates these signals into recognizable sounds.
Cochlear (KOE-klee-er) implants are different from hearing aids:
Cochlear implants have:
Sound quality from a cochlear implant is different from that in normal hearing. That’s because a limited number of electrodes take over the work of the thousands of hair cells in a normal cochlea. The sounds a child hears won’t be totally “natural.”
But cochlear implants let someone sense sound that they couldn’t hear otherwise. Infants who never heard before soon will build new brain pathways to start to make sense of these sounds. With therapy and practice, all kids can learn how to interpret these sounds to better understand speech.
Doctors consider cochlear implants for children under 12 months of age with profound hearing loss in both ears. Older children with serious hearing loss also may get cochlear implants.
A cochlear implant team will help decide if cochlear implants are a good option. This team includes an audiologist (hearing specialist), an ear-nose-throat (ENT) doctor, a speech therapist, a psychologist, and a social worker.
Kids being considered for the surgery will:
Kids might not get the implants if:
Cochlear implant surgery is done under general anesthesia. The child will sleep through the surgery and not feel pain.
Depending on a child’s hearing, the doctor may recommend getting two cochlear implants, one for each ear. This may be done at the same time or in two separate operations. People with two implants are better able to tell where sound is coming from, hear better in noisy settings, and hear sound from both sides without having to turn their head.
All surgeries come with some risks. The most common problems after cochlear implant surgery include:
Rare problems include:
Children with cochlear implants have a higher risk for some types of meningitis. So it’s important that they get their immunizations on time. Children over 2 years old with cochlear implants also should get the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23) to help protect against meningitis.
The audiologist will turn on the cochlear implants about 2-4 weeks after surgery. The team fine-tunes them over several weeks to meet your child’s hearing needs. They’ll also teach you how to care for and operate it.
Children with cochlear implants begin auditory rehabilitation (listening therapy) and speech and language therapy soon after surgery. Auditory rehabilitation helps a child identify sounds and associate meanings with those sounds. Speech therapy helps them develop and understand spoken language. Expect these sessions to happen once or twice weekly for at least a year.
Most children who get cochlear implants do well, but results vary. How well they hear and communicate depends on things such as:
After surgery, kids need strong support from parents and other family members. You’ll play an important role in your child’s speech development. Education and training programs offered by therapists can help you learn the best ways to help your child.
If your child is a candidate for cochlear implants, talk to the implant team about what to expect after the surgery.
It can help to learn all you can about hearing loss and cochlear implants. Talk to the care team about local support groups in your area. You also can look online for information and support at:
Hearing problems can be overcome if they’re caught early, so it’s important to get your child’s hearing screened early and checked regularly.
Hearing may be the ears’ main job, but it’s not all they do. Learn all about the ears in this Body Basics article.
Working with a certified speech-language pathologist can help a child with speech or language difficulties.
Kids with APD can’t process what they hear as other kids do, because their ears and brain don’t fully coordinate. But early diagnosis and therapy can improve their hearing skills.
Knowing what’s “normal” and what’s not in speech and language development can help you figure out if you should be concerned or if your child is right on schedule.
Some kids have hearing loss due to auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder (ANSD), a problem in the transmission of sound from the inner ear to the brain.
When a kid has trouble hearing, an audiologist can help. That’s a person specially trained to understand how hearing works and to help kids who don’t hear normally.
Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with the ear, nerves connected to the ear, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. Someone who has hearing loss may be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all. To learn more, read this article for kids.
Hearing impairment occurs when there’s a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.
Surgeries and operations happen in the operating room, sometimes called the OR. Find out more in this article for kids.
Loud music can cause temporary and permanent hearing loss. Learn how to protect your ears so you won’t be saying, “Huh? What did you say?”
Want to hear what’s being said to you, by you, and about you? Find out how hearing aids help people with certain types of hearing loss.
Earbuds are basically a tiny pair of speakers that go inside the ears. They’re fine at low volumes, but they can cause permanent hearing loss if not used properly. Find out what’s safe (and not) in this article for teens.
Hearing is their main job, but it’s not all your earsÂ do. Find out all about them in this body basics article for teens.
The cochlea looks like a spiral-shaped snail shell deep in your ear.
Find out when and why your child needs to get these vaccines.
Which vaccines does your child need and when? Use this immunization schedule as a handy reference.
What teachers should know about hearing impairments, and how to help students who have one succeed in school.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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