Cochlear Implant 101
Cochlear Implant 101
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a hearing device that converts sound in your environment into an electrical signal that is sent via your hearing nerve to be interpreted by your brain. It is a device for individuals who have a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, and for whom conventional hearing aids are not sufficient.
How does it work?
Your cochlear implant consists of two parts:
- The internal part, known as the implant receiver/stimulator (1)
- The external part, known as the speech processor (2)
Your internal part (1) will be surgically implanted underneath the skin behind your ear. The body of the internal part/device houses a magnet and a computer chip. The body of the internal device is connected to a long group of wires, known as the electrode array. The electrode array is the part of the internal device that “talks” directly to your hearing nerve via electrical stimulation in your inner ear (cochlea) at tiny points along its length (3). These tiny points are called electrode contacts.
The internal part of your CI cannot work unless it is paired with your external speech processor (2) and you are wearing it on your ear. The speech processor is worn behind your ear, like a hearing aid, but also has a cable and a headpiece (antenna) with a magnet (4). The magnet in the headpiece connects to the magnet in the body of the internal device, with your healed skin in between. This magnetic connection allows the headpiece to sit in the correct position over top of the internal device to send messages about your sound environment efficiently across your skin.
The speech processor picks up sounds in the listening environment (1) and “talks” to the internal device with special radio frequencies (2) through your healed skin. The speech processor tells the tinternal device (3) how to electrically stimulate the hearing nerve in the inner ear (cochlea) using the electrode array to represent what you are hearing (4). Your hearing nerve receives this electrical message through the electrode contacts and sends this message to the parts of your brain responsible for hearing (5) and your brain assigns meaning to that message (6).