Cochlear implants are an advanced option that offers individual opportunity to hear. Hearing aids have become almost passé for younger individuals and for situations when hearing aids aren't enough to offer the hearing capabilities that a person may experience. Of course, some individuals with genetic malformation or deformities may not benefit from advanced technologies like cochlear implants, but they do provide alternatives to traditional solutions for those with severe to profound hearing loss.
Cochlear Implant Technology
Cochlear implants are implanted into the skull behind the ear. The cochlear implant is made of several components including:
Cochlear Implant Surgical Procedure
A person undergoing a cochlear implant is placed under general anesthesia. An incision is made behind the ear for implantation of the internal magnet of the cochlear device, which will be situated in the slight depression along the mastoid bone.
Inside the ear, the surgeon makes a very small hole in the cochlea. The electrode array of the internal device is threaded through the hole and the incision is closed. The internal device is located beneath the scalp and rests against the skull. The entire procedure may take up to three hours.
In most cases, patients receiving a cochlear device may be discharged from hospital the following day. A headset is fitted to the patient after approximately two to four weeks following the implantation of the cochlear device. External components of the cochlear device are then tested, fine-tuned and set.
The cochlear implant headset is composed of a transmitter to the cochlear device that has been inserted into the skull, which is connected to an over-the-ear microphone and speech processor. The transmitter portion of the cochlear implant headset contains a magnet that attaches to a magnet implanted inside the scalp. The transmitter then sends sound signals through the skin and into the internal receiver or stimulator.
An audiologist and speech therapists may be utilized to program the speech processor. Individuals who have had little hearing experience in their lives may be initially overwhelmed by the input of sounds, especially loud sounds, during the first few weeks of use. Patients will hear through the cochlear implant after the unit has been programmed to comfortable listening levels and the speech processor downloaded.
Cost of Cochlear Implants
In the United States, the average cost for a cochlear implant, including post-op aural rehabilitation and counseling may exceed $40,000, and can often range up to $70,000. Costs for the procedure also depend on the type of cochlear implant, which alone can cost $20,000 to $30,000.
In locations such as India, a cochlear implant averages around $30,000. However, cochlear implants are considered some of the most cost-effective procedures for aural rehabilitation and for enhancing communication.
Who performs cochlear implants?
A team of professionals is involved in the implantation of a cochlear device. An ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) surgeon, an audiologist, a speech and language pathologist, and counselors, are just a few of the individuals involved in the process of helping an individual adapter to a cochlear implant.
An ear, nose and throat specialist or surgeon undergoes traditional medical school, internship, residency and hospital training and then specializes in ear, nose and throat surgical procedures. An experienced ENT surgeon treats a wide number of conditions and diseases. An ENT surgeon may spend as many as 12 years in schooling and training which includes four years of medical school, one year of general surgery training followed by four years of specialized ENT surgery training and education.
Accredited and certified surgeons should belong to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, the American Society of Pediatric Otolaryngology or the Entomological Society of America or other similar organizations or boards in the surgeon’s country of origin. Always verify the education, training and experience of any surgeon who may perform surgery and make sure they are licensed to practice in the facility of your choice.
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