When it comes to innovation, no industry fits the description more than medicine. Of the many advancements in medical technology discovered over the years, few have had as radical of an impact as cochlear implants. These small devices take the place of a damaged cochlea in the inner ear, which allows the brain to pick up sound signals.
While the implant does not restore normal hearing to the patient, this is a great opportunity for children who are born deaf, and a moment of refuge for their parents. Two to three of every 1,000 children are born deaf or have some kind of detectable hearing loss. By acquiring a cochlear implant, children are able to use their ears to navigate through school, playing outside, and even music. In 2013, the University of Washington started working on a way for cochlear implants to process musical instruments compared to the standard implant. While this is a challenge for most people who have cochlear implants, science and medicine is on it’s way to solving this issue once and for all. A standard cochlear implant in children works great when the patient is listening to someone talk without any background noise.
The implant has both an internal and external portion. The external portion sits on the back of the ear, while the internal portion is surgically implanted underneath the skin. Each implant consists of four parts: a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter, and an electrode array. The microphone picks up sound, which is then refined by the speech processor. The transmitter then converts the sound into electric impulses, which is then sent to different regions of the auditory never by the electrode array.
In order for a child’s cochlear implant to be most effective, it is best to obtain surgery as soon as possible. Having a cochlear implant at an earlier age can close the language gap for impaired patients. If a child has cochlear implant surgery before they are 18 months, studies show their language development is on par with kids their age. If surgery is done after a child turns three, then the gap in language development is more prominent. However, surgery is only the first step. There is a good portion of speech therapy involved for recipients. In several cases, hearing aids are involved to help children with hearing loss. While the hearing aid might not result in as dramatic of improvements, it can develop a child’s language skills in the long run.
Throughout all this innovation, what is probably the most heart-warming thing about cochlear implants is the difference it makes in children’s lives. When you see a child hear his mother’s voice for the first time, it brings you to tears. If your child is deaf and you want to see his or her language develop like kids their age, then reach out to us at Pediatric ENT Associates to see the difference we can make in you and your child’s life. Call (205) 831-0101 or fill out the online contact form today.