Cochlear Implant vs Tinnitus: The Chicken or the Egg

Cochlear Implant vs Tinnitus: The Chicken or the Egg

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Tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears), or worsening of existing tinnitus, is one of the possible side effects of cochlear implantation. Most cochlear implant candidates already report experiencing tinnitus before cochlear implant surgery, as it is often associated with hearing loss. In fact, around 80%* of patients report tinnitus before the implant is placed.

After surgery, there is a recovery period of approximately 2 weeks to 1 month (depending upon your hospital’s protocols) before your sound processor is activated or “turned on.” During this period, your tinnitus may still be present and may even seem a little stronger. For most people, once the sound processor is activated, and you are focused on the sounds in your environment, the tinnitus decreases or disappears altogether. However, this is not always the case. For some people, cochlear implant surgery does not change their tinnitus, or even makes their tinnitus worse. While the placement of a cochlear implant has appeared to have a positive effect on tinnitus in most cases, scientists are still investigating to better understand this phenomenon.

If you have tinnitus, you may be wondering if the cochlear implant is the right solution for you.

In Canada, the presence of tinnitus is not an indication to receive a cochlear implant. Researchers are studying this question, so it is possible that in the future some people will receive a cochlear implant to treat their tinnitus. Candidacy for a cochlear implant with tinnitus currently requires meeting other criteria, for example, being completely deaf in one ear. The impact of cochlear implantation on tinnitus continues to be investigated.

* Baguley, D. M., & Atlas, M. D. (2007). Cochlear implants and tinnitus. Progress in brain research, 166, 347-355.

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