What are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are advanced electronic devices that function as bionic ears and are the first medical technology to replace one of the five major senses. They are designed to provide sound to individuals with significant hearing loss in one or both ears, especially those with poor word recognition ability. Unlike traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants are inserted into the inner ear (cochlea) and directly stimulate the brain electrically through the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants offer a unique solution for patients who are unable to benefit from conventional hearing aid amplification.

 Who Can Benefit from Cochlear Implants?

Ideal candidates for cochlear implants include both children, 9 months and older and adults who have moderate-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears with poor word recognition ability, asymmetric sensorineural hearing loss with poor word recognition, or single-sided deafness with normal hearing in one ear and severe-to-profound hearing loss in the opposite ear. Your doctor will guide you as to whether the type and degree of your hearing loss qualifies you for a cochlear implant.

Medicare patients with hearing loss must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Bilateral sensorineural hearing loss with less than 60 percent word recognition in both ears
  • Limited benefit from conventional hearing aids
  • Intact cognitive ability
  • No middle ear or mastoid disease
  • A patent inner ear
  • No auditory nerve tumors or central nervous system disease
  • No contraindication for having an operation under general anesthesia
  • Meet current U.S. Food & Drug Administration guidelines for cochlear implantation

Cochlear implants are particularly beneficial for those who gain limited benefit from conventional hearing aids and have a strong commitment to the rehabilitation process post-implantation.