For children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss, the use of conventional hearing aids is often frustrating at best and completely useless at worst. For children, this can lead to significant difficulties with spoken language. For adults and the elderly, severe hearing loss can lead to isolation from family and friends, difficulty in the workplace, and overall significantly reduced quality of life.
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that bypasses the damaged portions of the inner ear to directly stimulate the hearing nerve. The implant not only restores a patient's ability to hear sounds at normal conversational levels, but it also has the ability to restore the "clarity" of perceived speech sounds, thereby improving the ability to understand speech.
Dr. Theodore P. Mason and Jeanne Coburn, AuD started the Baystate Medical Center Cochlear Implant Program in 2003. Our program performs approximately 30 implant procedures per year on children and adults ranging in age from 12 months to 91 years. Our program currently uses implants manufactured by Cochlear Corporation , Advanced Bionics and Med-EL.
“Cochlear implants,” says Dr. Theodore Mason, “are an amazing way to help people get their lives back. I see this especially with older patients who tend to withdraw from family, community and friends because it’s too hard to communicate. Older patients with hearing loss tend to suffer from depression, but once they receive the implant, they become the ‘center’ of life again.”
The cochlear implant surgery is very straightforward. It is surgically placed along the length of the cochlea, with wire leads connected to an electronics package implanted under the skin behind the ear. The external device, called a speech processor, includes a microphone, which picks up sound from the environment; a computer chip, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone; and a transmitter that beams the control signals to the implant. The implanted receiver/stimulator receives signals from the speech processor, converts them into electrical impulses, and delivers them to the electrodes. These electrical stimuli excite auditory nerve fibers, causing them to send impulses to the brain.