If you are experiencing hearing loss, but hearing aids don’t work for you, your Oklahoma ear specialist may talk to you about considering a cochlear implant. People who rely heavily on reading lips despite utilizing hearing aid technology, those who miss more than half of spoken words while wearing hearing aids, and patients who have poor clarity in both ears may all be candidates for this helpful surgery. Our advanced hearing center in Oklahoma is here to explain what cochlear implant surgery is, how it is performed, and what happens after it’s completed.
What a Cochlear Implant Is
Cochlear implants allow those with hearing impairments to receive sound by converting environmental sounds and speech into electrical signals that are transferred to the hearing nerve. They pass over the damaged hair cells completely. It sits both inside and outside your ear. The external piece sits behind your ear and picks up sound using a microphone. These sounds are then processed and transmitted to the internal piece embedded under the skin. Small electrodes and a thin wire lead to the cochlea in the inner ear and send signals to the cochlear nerve which works with the brain to produce sound. While it doesn’t restore normal hearing, the implant increases awareness of environmental sounds. You should have an easier time understanding speech and reading lips.
A cochlear implant is not a hearing aid. Hearing aids work specifically to make sounds louder, but they don’t improve speech understanding. When combined with rehabilitation therapy, the cochlear implant can help severely hearing-impaired adults regain communication skills. They’ve even been used in toddlers and infants to help them learn to listen and speak.
What Implant Surgery Entails
Your surgery will be done in a hospital, ENT clinic, or advanced hearing center in Oklahoma. It normally lasts between two and four hours, during which time you are asleep under general anesthesia. The surgeon will open the mastoid bone by making a cut behind your ear. He will then create an opening between your facial nerves to give him access to open your cochlea and insert the implant electrodes. An electronic receiving device is placed under the skin behind your ear and secured to the skull. Afterward, the surgeon will close your incisions and move you to the recovery area where you will be discharged after being observed for at least two hours.
What Happens After Surgery
You’ll be given home-care instructions for your incision when you leave the hospital or clinic. You’ll be in charge of changing your dressings and taking care of your stitches. You should keep your ear dry for a day or two after surgery and then resume washing it normally. Your Oklahoma ear specialist will want to see you again about a week after surgery to inspect the incisions and remove your stitches. If you notice wound drainage or increased pain and fever, talk to your healthcare provider immediately. You may have an infection.
The external piece of your implant will be added about four to six weeks after you’ve had the surgery, and your doctor will activate the device at that time by programming the speech processor. Turning on the microphone will cause the internal device to start stimulating the cochlear nerve so you can respond to sound.
Your doctor will teach you the basics of caring for and using your new implant, and you may require several adjustments over the next few days. Fine-tuning may take months to complete. It’s a gradual process that will require trips to audiologists and speech-language pathologists, but over time having a cochlear implant can improve your quality of life.
If you think you may be a candidate for cochlear implant surgery, talk to your audiologist at the Oklahoma Hearing Center. We can help determine what device is best for your hearing-loss needs and work with you to improve communication with those around you.
Call us for an appointment at 405.562.1810 today.