Cochlear Implant in Children

Jan 20, 2024


- Dr. Kunal Nigam, ENT Specialist

Cochlear implants are electronic devices designed to provide a sense of sound to individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. Here's a breakdown of the information you provided:

1. Components of Cochlear Implants

• External piece: Speech processor, worn behind the ear, with a microphone and computer to code sound into electrical signals.

• Transmitting coil: Sends signals to an internally implanted receiving coil.

• Internally implanted part: Receiver/stimulator placed below the skin.

• Electrode array: Implanted in the inner ear to stimulate the hearing nerve.

2. Function of Cochlear Implants

• Cochlear implants do not "fix" hearing loss but provide access to sounds, including speech.

• The implant takes over the function of damaged or missing cells in the inner ear by transmitting coded signals through electrodes to stimulate the hearing nerve.

3. Normal Hearing with Cochlear Implants

• Cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing but, with consistent aural habitation and practice, users can often learn to understand spoken language.

4. Candidates for Cochlear Implants

• Both adults and children who learned to talk before becoming deaf or had normal or partial hearing may benefit.

• For congenitally deaf children, early implantation (before 3 years old, ideally) maximizes language potential.

• Candidates must have severe or profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, and those with auditory neuropathy spectrum disorder may also be considered.

5. Age for Cochlear Implantation

• Children can receive cochlear implants starting at 10 to 12 months of age.

• Evaluations should begin around 3 to 4 months of age, and congenitally deaf children should ideally have surgery before 3 years old.

6. Surgery Procedure

• Surgery is performed under general anesthesia, taking three to six hours.

• The receiver/stimulator is placed under the skin, and the electrode array is inserted into the inner ear.

• Post-surgery, a short hospital stay is typical, and a parent or caregiver is encouraged to stay with the child.

7. Risks of Cochlear Implant Surgery

• Rare risks include facial nerve paralysis, loss of taste sensation, dizziness, or ringing in the ear.

• The surgery typically removes any residual hearing in the ear where the implant is placed, but hearing in the opposite ear can be enhanced with a conventional hearing aid when appropriate.