The cochlea is a 'snail-like' organ in the inner ear.
Which hospitals in Ireland do cochlear implants?
Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, Ireland, has been providing this service since February 1995. It is the only hospital in Ireland to do so.
How do cochlear implants help?
The cochlea contains thousands of sensitive hair cells which produce nerve impulses by which the brain is informed of the pitch and loudness of sounds. Cochlear implants help by sending electrical messages directly to the auditory nerve, bypassing the damaged or absent hair cells. It is essential that the auditory nerve be undamaged. Cochlear implants are usually used to assist lip-reading and to hear some everyday sounds. They do not fully restore the perception of sound to normal levels.
What does the operation involve?
During the operation, the surgeon implants the internal parts of the cochlear implant underneath the skin. The receiver/stimulator sits in the bone just behind the ear and electrodes are coiled around the cochlea. Electrical audio signals can then be passed into the cochlea.
What are the benefits of cochlear implants?
- The implants allow you to monitor your own voice.
- They provide you with a better awareness of sounds around you.
- Help you follow conversations better with the help of lip-reading.
No, only the profoundly or totally deaf people can use them. This is because the implants do not provide anything like natural hearing and the operation involves surgery on the delicate mechanisms of the ear. Certain types of deafness are not suitable for the process.
If the candidate is deaf for many years, the process may be futile because their memory of sound has declined to a huge extent. The candidate must undergo extensive examination by an audiology team before approval.
What should I expect immediately after the operation?
After the operation the patient must wait for several weeks before the equipment can be switched on. Afterwards the patient will gradually learn to recognise sounds with the help of an audiology team. For most people time and practice is required before they can make the most of their implants.
How common are cochlear implants?
The audiology department in the Beaumont Hospital in Ireland performs approximately 24 cochlear implants each year. By the end of 2009, over 188,000 implantations had been carried out world-wide.
What are the risks involved in choosing cochlear implants?
Opting for cochlear implants carries a small but real risk for people who are not totally deaf. If the operation fails they lose their natural hearing and cannot go back to using a hearing aid. In some cases the sense of balance may be affected.
What is the cost of cochlear implants?
In Ireland they cost from €21,000 to €38,000 for the operation and rehabilitation afterwards. In Ireland the Department of Health covers the cost of the cochlear implantation.
You can accompany the person on visits to the hospital, taking notes on the specialists' advice so as to ensure that the patient is fully aware of the procedure and what to expect.
After the operation has been carried out, there will be a wait period of several weeks until the equipment is switched on. This is always an anxious moment for the patient and the event is usually preceded with a period of counselling.
The decision to get the implants can be a difficult one for the patient. You can ensure that the patient's expectations are not too high. They should realise that the results will be gradual and that the implants do not provide anything like natural hearing.
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