Although most individuals find hearing aids to be successful devices for improving their hearing, those with severe to profound hearing loss may not benefit from traditional hearing aids; their hearing loss may require a cochlear implant. Cochlear implants bypass the mechanical and neural origins of our hearing systems and directly stimulate the acoustic nerve. Each cochlear implant has a microphone, speech processor, transmitter, receiver, and electrode array arranged in two parts; an external processor which sits behind the ear and an internal electrode array that is surgically implanted into the cochlea. Both children and adults can be candidates for a cochlear implant. Children are at a pivotal time in their lives and can benefit from cochlear implants as they are learning speech and language skills. Adults must meet stricter guidelines that are based on their history of hearing loss, degree of successful hearing aid use, and medical candidacy.
An Evaluation with your Audiologist
The first step to determine implantation candidacy is an evaluation with our audiologists at Albuquerque Speech Language and Hearing Center. This includes a specialized battery of diagnostic hearing tests, which is similar to a standard hearing exam but requires more speech testing, speech tests using hearing aids, and speech in noise testing. Psychological and medical examinations are also required to determine candidacy. A qualified candidate will have moderate to profound hearing loss in both ears that significantly affects their spoken communication and limited success using traditional hearing aids. Those individuals who score less than 65% on their speech tests are also qualified. After qualifying with the speech testing, an Audiologist will refer the patient to a neurologist for a medical exam and implantation of the device.
ASLHC Cochlear Implant Fittings
After an individual is cleared by the surgeon and the incision site is healed, an “activation” appointment is scheduled. At this appointment, the electrode array is activated and tested for signal response. This initial appointment can take several minutes to complete. During this appointment, there is a verification of power to the electrode array, tolerance levels are set per patient preferences, and signal balancing across frequencies is refined. Fine tuning cochlear implants is more involved than traditional hearing aids and may require more adjustments as the individual becomes accustomed to the sound of their cochlear implant. The audiologist will suggest certain aural rehabilitative training to better acclimate the patient to the sounds coming from the implant. The brain will have to learn how to identify sounds again using this new technology—this is a slow but steady procedure with all cochlear implants. You will be scheduled for regular visits with your audiologist.
If you would like additional information on Albuquerque cochlear implants or believe you may be a candidate for implantation, please call us at 505-431-4212 to speak to an audiologist or schedule a cochlear implant evaluation appointment.