Cochlear and Auditory Brainstem Implants

It’s a Whole New World With Cochlear and Auditory Brainstem Implants

Older woman and her husband dancing in the kitchen while preparing dinner.

If you’re deaf or significantly hard of hearing, it’s easy for it to seem like you’re missing out on things. You want to feel more connected to your environment and better understand conversations with loved ones, hear the dialogue from your favorite movie or understand other sounds around you.

You might feel frustrated if you’ve tried hearing aids and they just don’t work for you. But luckily, there are several other options provided by Charleston ENT & Allergy that might open a new world of sounds for you.

What Are Cochlear and Auditory Brainstem Implants?

There are two types of implants that can help those who have difficulty hearing. 

Cochlear Implant

A cochlear implant is a device that stimulates the auditory nerve by using electrodes placed in the cochlea of the inner ear. This device has both external and internal parts. The external part sits behind the ear and picks up sounds with a microphone. The sound is then transmitted to the internal elements of the implant.

Auditory Brainstem Implant

An auditory brainstem implant works similarly but connects directly to the brainstem.

In the United States, around 58,000 adults and 38,000 children received cochlear implants between 2012 and 2022. Across the world, approximately 324,200 devices have been implanted.

How Are These Implants Different from Hearing Aids?

While hearing aids amplify sounds, implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The implant generates signals that are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, which are, in turn, recognized as sounds. 

Hearing through a cochlear implant or auditory brainstem implant can take time to learn. But Charleston ENT & Allergy will be by your side through this process. Once you get accustomed to those new sounds, you can better understand the sounds that make up your world, whether it’s something spoken by a family member or friend, a discussion in a classroom or the bark of your dog.

When Should I Consider a Hearing Implant?

This is a big question, and you don’t have to answer it on your own. Our provider will help you determine if hearing implants would be a good fit for you.

Implants are often used in the following circumstances:

  • You’re experiencing hearing loss that is not helped by hearing aids.
  • You miss more than half of spoken words or rely on lip reading, even with hearing aids.
  • You have profound sensorineural hearing loss, a condition involving damage to your inner ear.

Which Hearing Implant Is Best for Me?

Our audiologist will guide you through this process. Cochlear implants are more common than auditory brainstem implants. Typically, you can receive a cochlear implant unless:

  • You have damage from a skull fracture.
  • Your auditory nerve is small or missing.
  • The shape of your inner ear doesn’t allow for it.
  • A rare tumor known as neurofibromatosis type II (NF2), is present.

How Can Hearing Implants Help Children?

In 2000, cochlear implants received FDA approval for use in children starting at 12 months old. The technology can potentially change the lives of children who are deaf or hard of hearing. 

Using a cochlear implant when children are young connects them to sounds as they develop speech and language skills. Studies have shown that when a child receives implants and therapy prior to turning 18 months:

  • They can hear, understand sound and music and communicate with others at better rates than children who receive implants when they are older.
  • They develop language skills at similar rates to peers with normal hearing.
  • They are often successful in mainstream classrooms.

What Happens After I Receive the Implant?

After healing from the surgery, your audiologist will program the device to fit your unique needs and teach you how to care for it. You will also receive aural therapy to interpret the new electrical signals.

The duration of this rehabilitation will vary based on your goals and progress. Whether it lasts for a shorter period of time or is a long-term endeavor, Charleston ENT & Allergy will be by your side.

Our Team Is in Your Corner

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when thinking about receiving cochlear or auditory brainstem implants. Undergoing surgery and taking the time to learn to interpret the new sounds that you’re hearing can feel daunting, and you might not know where to start. At Charleston ENT & Allergy, we’ll guide you through every step of the process.