Cochlear Implants

pediatric ENT specialist performing cochlear implant surgery in Birmingham, AL

If your child suffers from severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, they may be a candidate for cochlear implants. This assistive technology differs from hearing aids in that it utilizes a two-part system, which requires a surgical implant into the cochlea as well as an external component.

A pediatric cochlear implant can significantly impact your child’s ability to hear, speak, and develop language. At Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham, our group of experienced doctors specializes in providing the most advanced care for children requiring cochlear implants.

To learn more about the various pediatric ear conditions treated at our ears, nose, and throat center in Birmingham, please contact us today!

What is a Pediatric Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear implants are not hearing aids. Hearing aids amplify sounds so that children or adults with partial hearing loss are able to hear sounds better.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that stimulates the nerve ending in the ear to provide a sense of sound. Rather than amplifying sound, it translates sound into signals that can be interpreted by the auditory nerve and the brain in order to understand sounds and speech. Older children may benefit from cochlear implant surgery as well, as the implant’s technology will allow them to connect the signals from the implant with remembered sounds.

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How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

mother and her son with cochlear implants in Birmingham, AL

A cochlear implant consists of two parts. A sophisticated electronic device is implanted into the cochlea which can turn outside sound into signals recognized by the auditory nerve. These signals are transmitted to the device by means of an external microphone and speech processor unit. Working together, these components can simulate hearing for your child.

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Benefits of a Cochlear Implant

The biggest advantage gained from a cochlear implant is improved hearing and speech perception in children. Cochlear hearing implants maximize access to spoken language, and improve the clarity of the child’s speech and the development of listening skills. Since children with cochlear implants can hear better in the classroom, educational outcomes are improved, which could allow more opportunities in the future.

Another major benefit is safety. Cochlear implants give children the ability to hear potential dangers such as sirens, alarms, alerts, and other important sounds.

The efficacy of the implants will depend on a variety of factors, such as how soon the child was implanted, how consistently the implant is used, and the frequency of listening and spoken language therapy.

Are Cochlear Implants Right For Your Child?

Pediatric ENT specialist looking into a patient's ear during her appointment for cochlear implants in Birmingham, AL

Having this kind of sophisticated technology implanted is not a decision to be entered into lightly. A thorough evaluation by a Birmingham pediatric ENT specialist, audiologist, and speech therapist may be needed, and follow-up visits are required for at least one year following the surgery. Speech and audio therapy will be needed once a week, as the child will need to practice listening and speaking. Having a cochlear implant procedure is a big step that will require time and dedication.

That said, cutting-edge implants can provide a substantial benefit for profoundly deaf children. This advanced assistive technology can help very young children develop speech and language abilities almost on par with their fully hearing peers. Pediatric cochlear implants can also restore the gift of sound and speech to older children who have lost their hearing.

It is important to visit a cochlear implant clinic and engage in a thorough discussion with a doctor well versed in the process before making a decision.

Many other factors are important when determining which children would benefit from an implant. The main criteria include:

  • Infants should be 9 months or older
  • Profound sensorineural hearing loss of 90 decibels or greater in both ears for children between 9 and 18 months
  • Severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss of 70 decibels or greater in both ears in children 24 months and older
  • Profound sensorineural hearing loss in one ear or asymmetric hearing loss in children 5 years and older
  • Hearing aids provide little to no benefit
  • No contraindication preventing surgery, such as absence of auditory nerve
  • Access to an educational or rehabilitative setting to develop auditory skills
  • Positive, motivating family environment
  • Realistic expectations about child’s performance

Pediatric ENT Associates have a team of experts available to evaluate whether a cochlear implant will be beneficial for your child. From pediatric cochlear implant surgeons to speech-language pathologists and audiologists, we carefully examine a child’s potential, as well as his or her family’s to ensure they thrive with a cochlear implant.

Schedule a Cochlear Implants Consultation with an ENT Specialist in Birmingham

If you feel that your child may benefit from a bionic ear, please contact Pediatric ENT Associates at Children’s of Alabama at (205) 831-0101. World-renowned pediatric ENT specialist Dr. Audie Woolley heads the cochlear implant program in Birmingham, Alabama and will take the time to evaluate your child and explain everything that the process involves. We look forward to assisting you and your child.