What is a cochlear implant?
Cochlear implants are medical devices that allow deaf and severely hard of hearing individuals to hear. A small device is surgically implanted under the skin and an electrode is placed into the cochlear (the part of the inner ear responsible for hearing). A small external processor resembling a hearing aid or mp3 player processes the sound and sends it to the implant via a quarter sized headpiece. There are three cochlear implant brands approved for use in the US: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Corporation, and Med-El. Implants can be placed in infants less than a year old as well as adults. The oldest person ever to receive a cochlear implant lives in the UK. She was 99 years old when she was implanted!
Why do we need more awareness?
Many people still do not know what cochlear implants are. The technology is advancing so quickly that even many medical professionals are working with outdated information. Currently less than 5% of newly diagnosed deaf families receive ANY information about cochlear implants. Sadly some families, especially those in rural areas, are still simply given information on hearing loss and told to “do the best you can”. Less than 7% of those who could benefit from cochlear implant technology go on to obtain the device. Many children with hearing loss go undiagnosed for years. Often they are misdiagnosed and treated for other communicative or sensory processing disorders.