A cochlear implant is a small electronic medical device that replaces the function of a damaged inner ear (unlike hearing aids, which work by making sounds louder). A cochlear implant works by acquiring sound input and converting it into an electrical signal. The signals are sent along electrodes placed in the inner ear, which then stimulate the hearing nerve to send information to the brain to be processed and interpreted as sound. Surgery involves placing the implant in the ear under general anesthesia, and is performed on an outpatient basis.
Since the cochlear implant was invented, many advances have been made. Candidacy criteria have changed, and evepeople who previously did not qualify for a cochlear implant may qualify for one today. People of all ages can benefit from a cochlear implant, and there is no such thing as being “too old” for a cochlear implant. Anyone with hearing loss who has had little to no benefit from using hearing aids, who scores poorly on speech recognition testing, and who is medically fit to undergo surgery, may be a candidate. Cochlear implants have been shown to work better than hearing aids and improve quality of life, and are covered by insurance for patients who meet candidacy criteria.