A cochlear implant is a tiny but powerful electronic device that provides a sense of sound to people who are severely hard-of-hearing, or even deaf.
A cochlear implant consists of an external portion that sits directly behind the ear and an internal portion that is surgically implanted under the skin. A cochlear implant is made up of:
- A microphone, which picks up various sounds from the environment
- A speech processor, which selects and arranges the sounds received by the microphone
- A transmitter and receiver, which receive signals from the speech processor and converts them into electric impulses
- An electrode array, which collects the impulses from the receiver and transmits them to the auditory nerve
A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing, but it can give a hearing-impaired or deaf person a representation of sounds that can help them understand speech.
How does a cochlear implant work?
A cochlear implant is completely different from a traditional hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sound so that it can be better detected. Cochlear implants bypass weak areas of the ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve instead. Signals that the implant generates are sent from the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets those signals as sounds. Hearing with a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes some time to learn.