Cochlear Implant Basics

A cochlear implant is an assistive device sometimes used by D/deaf or Hard of Hearing persons to have access to hearing.

The Surgery Process

The device is surgically implanted behind one or two ears (depending on the person). It is placed under the skin above the skull. A cochlear implant acts as a replacement to a damaged cochlea, unlike hearing aids which simply amplify sound. Due to the specific nature of the device not everyone may be suitable or eligible to receive one. Those who are eligible, however, may be afraid to have it surgicallycochlear implant implanted into their skull or their child’s skull since it is an electronic metal device.  Or they may be afraid that it will not work properly and cause other damage or pain.

The Cultural Perspective

The subject of cochlear implants can be a sensitive topic for those who are culturally D/deaf and typically use sign language. A common misconception is that all D/deaf people want to hear. Culturally Deaf individuals are typically born deaf or have been deaf most of their lives.  They may see no reason to “fix” something they deem unnecessary.  This is especially true if the person who is D/deaf has lived without hearing all or most of their lives.

Learning to Hear: Timeline

Another common misconception is that once a person has a cochlear implant all of their communication challenges are suddenly solved. Hearing words and practicing how to say and understand them develops when a child is very young. So depending on when they lost their hearing, each person who is D/deaf may adapt differently to a cochlear implant. It varies in effectiveness by person. They may still need to develop language after the surgery in order to understand what words mean and what sounds are. If someone has lived most of their life without hearing language, they may need to be taught from square one.

Positive and Negative Outcomes

Also, regardless of when a D/deaf or Hard of Hearing person receives their implant, they may have challenges with the device. It is not uncommon that people experience persistent headaches or other side effects. Other people have tremendous results and experience a new world with their implants. There are no negative ramifications, and the fact that they can hear their baby speak is priceless.

Regardless of the viewpoint of persons with hearing loss, cochlear implants are an individual’s decision.  They likely weighed all the facts before coming to their conclusion. For those who do choose to implant the device, support should be available so they can be as successful as possible.

How a Cochlear Implant Works

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