Cochlear Implantation has developed into a highly effective means of replacing cochlear function for deaf patients. It is indicated for patients with bilateral, profound, sensorineural hearing loss who make a little or no use of their hearing aids. Children from 6 months up to elderly patients in their late 80’s, have all been implanted. Some patients have challenging anatomical cochlear and inner ear deformities which are accommodated by use of different techniques of surgery. Overall, cochlear implants have helped many patients.
The Cochlear Implant device has two parts. There is a subcutaneously implanted device called the “receiver-stimulator”. This device receives signals from external to the head, and relays electrical impulses to the remaining nerves of the ear. Externally, the second part of the device is known as the “speech processor”, and resembles a hearing aid. It’s function is to use a microphone to receive speech sound and to process it into electrical signals. The processor electronically sends the signals through the skin to the receiver-stimulator. Thus, the speech sound energy that hits the processor microphone is encoded and sent through the skin via electromagnetic induction signals to the receiver-stimulator. The receiver-stimulator is connected to the inner ear and remaining nerve cells which receive the signals and pass them to the brain. The patient learns to interpret the signals as usable speech.
The perceived cochlear implant sound is not the same as natural hearing. The reason for this is that the thousands of cells associated with normal hearing are condensed down to about 20 electrode “cells”. Therefore, the fidelity of the cochlear implant is much less than a natural human ear. Nevertheless, speech can be heard and interaction can take place such that an external observer can hardly tell the difference between a normal hearing patient and a cochlear implant patient. Oftentimes, television and phone usage are possible. The implant is a good substitute for the lost natural hearing in deaf patients.
For children that have never heard noise before, learning speech is a long process, just as any learning of a new language would be. For adults who already know language and speech, it is a straight-forward and relatively quick process.
Dr. Fritsch welcomes you to this website, as well as to evaluation and treatment at his new location!