Treatment of Hearing Loss with Cochlear Implants

What are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear Implants are implantable surgical hearing devices that have an external unit with microphones to receive sound, and a processor to create good resolution of speech and non-speech sound, to the ear- just like a normal hearing aid. However, unlike a normal hearing aid, a cochlear implant’s processor converts the sound energy to an electrical output, which is delivered directly to the normal auditory nerve via surgically implanted electrodes that meet up with the nerve inside the ear, bypassing the hair cells of the cochlea (the sensory receptors for sound in the inner ear).

Cochlear implants are not appropriate for everyone with a hearing loss. The decision to have one (or two) cochlear implants is undertaken with a specially trained team of surgeons, audiologists, counsellors and the person and person’s family. In South Africa, certified professionals belong to The South African Cochlear Implant Group (SACIG).

Who may be fitted with Cochlear Implants?

Audiologists who see that their patients have insufficient benefit from conventional hearing aids with a qualifying hearing loss, will refer patients to a Cochlear Implant facility, and the team look at each person in terms of:

* The severity of the hearing loss

*The benefit with BEST FITTED amplification over a required trial period (if a hearing aid has not been fitted properly, with Real Ear Measures, then one cannot establish the benefit! (Yes, we do Real Ear Measurement)

*The age that the hearing loss began and how long it has been since the person last heard sound

*The cause of the hearing loss

*Whether the person has any other health problems or challenges to their ability to function for daily life, including whether verbal language is being used.

*Whether the person and family want and can commit to, a process of fitting and rehabilitation after the fitting.  

*How to achieve adequate funding for the implant process.

New Innovations

*Some new cochlear implant technologies combine a hearing aid for certain parts of the inner ear that are still working, and cochlear implant electrodes in places where hearing is no longer able to receive additional loudness from a hearing aid.

*Research is exploring ways that robotic implantation can improve the accuracy of the insertion for the patient.

*Recently, many countries have started to provide cochlear implants for people who have normal (or wear hearing aids) on one side, with a need to the implant on the other!

Our professionals are educated and familiar with the options available to achieve the best outcomes for your hearing, including, cochlear implants. We share all relevant options with you, to help you to attain a good quality of hearing life. Contact us for an evaluation of your hearing and be empowered around your hearing health.

By Natalie Buttress