Cochlear Implant: Is It the Right Solution for Me?

Cochlear Implant: Is It the Right Solution for Me?

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Who is a candidate for a cochlear implant?

In general, people eligible for a cochlear implant are those who have a permanent severe to profound hearing loss and for whom hearing aids no longer provide enough hearing benefit.

Selection criteria are constantly evolving and may also differ slightly from one Canadian centre to another. Each centre bases their implantation criteria on Health Canada’s recommendations, but is not forced to comply with them to the letter. In addition, centres are often involved in research and can therefore proceed with implantations that are currently outside the criteria established by Health Canada.

Is there a minimum or maximum age to receive a cochlear implant?

Health Canada has approved the use of cochlear implants from one year of age. Scientific evidence suggests that children who meet the criteria for cochlear implantation should be implanted before the age of 2 to achieve the best results. Cochlear implants have been shown to support cognitive health and improve quality of life for people of all ages. However, getting a cochlear implant is considered elective surgery and requires general anesthesia, so certain health limitations may apply for very young children or if you have other medical conditions.

Which ear will be operated?

Some centres prefer to implant the worst performing ear, while others prefer to implant the best performing ear, in the hope of obtaining better results. Many other factors can affect the choice of which ear to implant: the duration of deafness in that ear, the accessibility of the inner ear during surgery, its balancing function, etc. Each of your ears is assessed separately to determine the best ear to receive a cochlear implant.

What are the steps in the process?

The first step is to consult an audiologist to have your hearing assessed. Depending on the results, the audiologist will be able to refer you to the implantation centre nearest you. Then, the multidisciplinary cochlear implant team will take you through several tests (hearing test, speech comprehension tests, balance test, etc.) to determine if you could benefit from a cochlear implant. You will also meet with an ENT doctor and undergo medical examinations (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging or MRI). Once all the results have been reviewed by the team, and your candidacy has been confirmed, you will receive a surgery date. See the article Cochlear Implant Surgery Step by Step for more details.

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