A cochlear implant is a device implanted into the ear through the cochlea, a snail shaped organ in the middle ear. It uses anywhere from 16-22 electrodes and stimulates the auditory nerve. Everyone I’ve talked to who have gotten a cochlear implant have said that it has been life changing for them. I heard recently that a 99 year old was implanted with one!
A fairly recent development that I’m especially excited about is that cochlear implants can now be implanted in one ear while still wearing a hearing aid in the other. That used to not be possible because the sounds were too different. Talk about chaos! Users have said that it sounds natural to them and that many can hear music, birds singling, rustling of leaves and many other formerly unobtainable sounds.
If you are deaf or hard of hearing, or just want to know more about the cochlear implant from people who actually have them, visit the Hearing Loss Association of America’s online chat community. They have a chat session at 8pm EST every Monday night. You would be blown away by stories about what this device can do.
HLAA also has a variety of other ways to get involved in hearing loss advocacy. They have a convention each year, literature on hearing loss and the Walk4Hearing in many states.
Another really cool new development for cochlear implant users, is a smartphone type device that allows users to modify the settings on their cochlear implant. This feature allows the cochlear implant user to modify the settings to accommodate loud situations, such as restaurants, or quieter settings such as libraries. Although, from working in a library, it can be far from quiet. There are electronic noises, people talking in low voices, typing, etc. All of these can make it difficult to tune out for a hearing aid or cochlear implant user.
This new development is a grant from the National Institutes of Health. You can view more information about this grant and what is will do for cochlear implant users at this article: NIH Grant Enables Cochlear Implant Breakthrough.
I am really excited about what is in store for hearing technology. It changes so fast that it is hard to keep up, but the chance to hear better is an amazing thing to hope for.