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Cochlear Implant: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

What is the treatment? How is the treatment done? Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?) Who is not eligible for the treatment? Are there any side effects? What are the post-treatment guidelines? How long does it take to recover? What is the price of the treatment in India? Are the results of the treatment permanent? What are the alternatives to the treatment?

What is the treatment?

A cochlea is a part of the human ear, shaped liked a tube and it is hollow and usually coiled in the form of a shell of a snail. The cochlea contains the Organ of Corti, which is the sensory organ of hearing. Therefore the cochlea is an integral part of the human ear that coordinates the nerve cells within the ear to help the human hear. When a person’s cochlea is damaged and she/he is unable to hear almost nothing or absolutely nothing, then that person is given a device to make her/his cochlea work. This process is known as a cochlear implant.

A cochlear implant is a small yet complex electronic device that helps a person to hear who is basically deaf or almost nearly deaf. The device has two portions – an internal and an external one. While the former is surgically placed under the skin, the latter sits behind the ear. A cochlear implant doesn’t restore normal hearing, but it can give a deaf person a proper form of sounds that are there in the environment and help that person to hear sounds and decipher them.

A cochlear implant consists of various parts. There is a microphone to pick sound for the external environment. This sound picked by the microphone is selected and arranged accordingly by a speech processor. A transmitter and receiver are there that received sound signals from the processor and convert them into electric impulses. Lastly, there is an electrode array consisting of a group of electrodes whose function is to collect impulses from the stimulator and sending them to different parts of the auditory nerve.

A cochlear implant helps to bypass damaged portions of an ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the machine are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve, and the brain in turn recognises those signals as sounds. Hearing with the aid of this device is quite different from ordinary hearing and requires time to get used to it. But is allows people to hear speeches over the phone, understand sounds in the external environment and recognise warning signals.

How is the treatment done?

A cochlear implant is generally done under the influence if anaesthesia. The procedure used most commonly to implant a mechanical cochlea into a human ear is called mastoidectomy with facial recess approach (MFRA). This is done by removal of the mastoid cells. There are various types of this surgery: Radical mastoidectomy, Canal Wall Down Mastoidectomy, Canal Wall Up Mastoidectomy, Cortical Mastoidectomy and Modified Radical Mastoidectomy. All the different types of mastoidectomy are done by removal of one or more parts of the mastoid bone in order to get the part of the cochlea where the device needs to be implanted.

This surgery takes about two hours, but may also extend up to three hours at a stretch. Before the surgery is done, the audiologist and the physician decide which ear to operate and a thin line of hair is shaved along the incision line. The operator creates cuts a section of the skull behind the ear to accept an internal receiver. Under a surgical microscope, a meticulous drilling in the mastoid bone provided access to the cochlea. A small cavity in the round window membrane allows insertion of the electrode array. The electrode array is tested previously before putting it into the purpose of hearing

Generally the ear with better understanding of speech is recommended for this surgery as residual hearing predicts better post implant performance.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Irrespective of their age or social and economic background, any person who is partially or totally deaf is eligible to take this surgery. It has been approved that even children aged 12 months are also approved to go under cochlear implantation. It is very common these days to find children with hearing problems, who after undergoing this surgery, are able to hear well and clear.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

A person, who is not having any hearing problem, does not need to go under this operation. Only, a person who is severely or fully unable to hear is recommended to go for cochlear implantation.

Are there any side effects?

Various types of surgery may involve certain risks during the surgery. There can be infections during the time of surgery, which is quite common in many cases. Extrusion of the implant where the scalp overlies the implant may break down and thus exposes the implant. Further surgery to cover the implant with new tissue or removal of the implant may be necessary in that situation. Also taste disturbance, mouth dryness, numbness of the ear, weakness of the face, dizziness, hematoma, meningitis or anaesthesia can occur after the surgery is performed.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

Post treatment guidelines involve learning and re-learning the use of the device, as it is very different from the normal hearing aids. This may take time and would involve patience of the person who has undergone cochlear implant surgery. A person has to practice getting used to the device. Speech-language pathologists and audiologists are there to help people get into practising hearing with the aid of this implant.

How long does it take to recover?

It doesn’t take much time to recover from this surgery – about 1 or 2 days are enough to stay at the hospital after the process is done. As soon as the surgery is performed under the supervision of a medical personnel who is specialised in this particular field, the person suffering from hearing problems would be able to hear every sound clearly. He/she only needs some amount of time to get used to this device, and no other problem would exist any further.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The cost of cochlear implant in India starts from Rs. 5.12 lakhs and may vary according to the nature of the surgery. It may rise till Rs. 9.5 lakhs in certain cases.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The effect of the cochlear implantation is permanent. Once the surgery is performed, the people who initially suffered from this problem would get healed and no other problem regarding hearing would be faced by them in the future.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Certain people use hearing aids instead of this surgery. The surgery is quite expensive, and therefore those who cannot afford this surgery, can alternatively use the affordable hearing aids if they suffer from hearing impairment. This doesn’t require much practice to get accustomed to and many people use it.

Popular Questions & Answers

Hy doctors. I lost my hearing in right ear since 6-7 years .i had sinusitis which I discovered recently. I neva had ear pain n neither ear infection. Can you say me what r d possible causes of my hearing loss. N pls suggest me d test that will help me this discover my cause of hearing loss. Some doctor told it may be due to immune system issues. I have done pta n hearing loss is 115 dbhl. I.e sensorineural loss. My ear drum on dat ear is gud .pls help me.

DNB (ENT), Fellowship In Head & Neck Oncosurgery, Diploma in ENT, MBBS
ENT Specialist, Mumbai
Sensorineural hearing loss with 115 dbhl is too high, with 7 years history so with practical hope, I suggest hearing aid would give benefit. Go for hearing aid trial then we can later on we can think of cochlear implant surgery.

My father had a hole in his ear he is also a heart patient. Should I use candibiotic ear drop as present time he is not able to hear properly since he got cold and congestion.

Bachelor of Audiology & Speech Language Pathology (B.A.S.L.P)
Audiologist, Hyderabad
Please consult an entire doctor and get treatment if it is chronic. Have audiometry test done to know his type of hearing loss. If hes having regular ear discharge surgically closing the hole is must.
1 person found this helpful

Sir, my brother 14 year old and he deaf and dumb at birth. We are want to AIIMS new Delhi 9 year's ago and these time doctor saying I can't help you because patient is deaf and dumb at birth and his hearing power 0% than we go back. Now, totally deaf and dumb treatment are possible or not tell me sir?

M.Sc - Audiology, BASLP
Audiologist, Delhi
Dear sir, The only treatment I can think after reading your description is Cochlear Implant. Though, the benefit of cochlear implant is best at younger ages but we have seen good results with older children also. If you want to learn more about co...

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