image of cochlear implant

What is a cochlear implant?

Contributed by Audika

16/09/2021 12:00:00 AM • 3 min to read

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted medical device designed to help improve the hearing of those with significant inner ear damage.

How is a cochlear implant different to a hearing aid?

Hearing aids are a great solution to help a large portion of people with hearing loss by amplifying sound. However, for some people hearing aids may not provide sufficient benefit.

Unlike hearing aids which amplify sound, a cochlear implant works to bypass the non-functioning part of the inner ear to stimulate the hearing nerve directly. This may enhance the clarity of sound and help improve the hearing ability of speech, music, and sound within the environment.

How does a cochlear implant work?

cochlear implant example

A cochlear implant has two parts- an external sound processor that is worn behind the ear, and an internal implant which is surgically placed underneath the skin.

The external sound processor uses microphones to capture sounds from the environment and transforms these into digital signals. These digital signals are then transferred to the internal implant via a transmitter.

The internal implant receives the digitised sound and converts this into an electrical signal which is sent down an electrode array inside the inner ear (cochlea). When these electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, the brain recognises these signals as sounds.

What does cochlear implant surgery involve?

Despite what many people think, cochlear implant surgery is not brain surgery. It is a routine procedure performed by an Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) surgeon. The internal implant is surgically slid underneath the skin and attached to an electrode array that is carefully placed into the inner ear.
Surgery is conducted under general anesthetic and generally takes 1-3 hours. In many cases patients are able to be discharged the very next day.

What are the funding options for cochlear implants?

In Australia, candidates may be covered by their private hospital health insurance or, if eligible, elect to proceed through the public system with state government funding. Eligible veterans may have access to support through the Department of Veteran affairs (DVA). Clients can also choose to self-fund.

Funding is limited in New Zealand. Clients may be eligible for public funding through the Ministry of Health or clients can choose to self-fund.

Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?

f you struggle to hear with well-fit hearing aids, have difficulty hearing conversation over the phone, or rely on lip-reading you may be a candidate for a cochlear implant.

How can I find out if I’m a candidate?

Only a suitably qualified professional can determine if you may be a candidate for a cochlear implant. Audika can help though our Specialist Referral Network. The first step in the Audika Specialist Referral Network pathway is to have a full hearing assessment at your local Audika clinic. Based on these results your Audika hearing care expert can determine if a referral to an implant clinic may be appropriate. The implant clinic can then assess whether you might be a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant.

Learn more about the Audika Specialist Referral Network