Sometimes referred to as a “bionic ear”, a cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain. Candidates for the implant include children with profound hearing loss, adults with profound hearing loss or who get little to no benefit from hearing aids.
Here’s how the implant works:
- The microphone picks up sound.
- Sound is sent to the sound and speech processor.
- The processor analyzes the sound and converts it into an electrical signal. (The signal contains information that determines how much electrical current will be sent to the electrodes.)
- The transmitter sends the signal to the implant package, where it’s decoded.
- The implant package determines how much electric current should pass to the electrodes and sends the signal. The amount of electric current determines loudness, and the position of the electrodes determines the sound’s pitch.
- The nerve endings in the cochlea are stimulated and the message is sent to the brain along the auditory nerve.
- The brain interprets the sound and the person hears.