Cochlear Implants Offer Sound Benefits

Cochlear Implants Offer Sound Benefits

Cochlear implants give kids with severe to profound hearing loss the hope of knowing their dog’s bark, their mom’s soothing lullaby, or their teacher’s voice. In a world wired for sound, such implants can open the door to a new life.

More than 28,000 U.S. kids now use these small, complex electronic devices to gain a sense of sound. Children with cochlear implants rate their quality of life as highly as children with normal hearing, according to a study in Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery.

The implants have two main parts. An external portion sits behind the ear, and a small device is surgically placed under the skin just above the ear. The implant doesn’t “restore” or “cure” hearing. Instead, it allows the perception of the sensation of sound. When coupled with therapy, cochlear implants can help young children acquire speech, language, and social skills.

Implants as Young as 1

Most children who get implants are 2 to 6 years old. However, kids as young as 1 can receive them. The earlier they’re implanted, the greater the opportunity for exposure to sounds that can be crucial as children learn to talk. Older kids, and even adults, may also receive cochlear implants.

After an implant, hearing ranges from a near normal ability to understand speech to no hearing benefit at all. However, most kids with implants perceive sounds that vary from rustling leaves, footsteps, and whistling teakettles to slamming doors, running engines, and ringing telephones.

Implants can also increase the ability to read lips because they can enhance the understanding of speech.

Risks of Side Effects

Nerves that control the facial muscles pass through the middle ear near the implant site. There’s a risk surgery could injure those nerves, resulting in temporary or permanent weakening, or even paralysis, on that side of the face. The nerve responsible for the tongue’s taste sensation runs through the same area and could be hurt during surgery, too.

There’s a slight risk for post-operative dizziness, infection, ringing in the ear, and rejection of the implant. And implantation requires the use of sedatives that also carry some risk.

But for most people, the odds of complications are extremely low. Your child’s doctor can explain the risks, and how likely they are to be outweighed by the benefits of implantation.

Online Medical Reviewer: Rina Lazebnik

Date Last Reviewed: Unavailable

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