What is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. The implant consists of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin. An implant includes:
A microphone, which picks up sound from the environment.
A speech processor, which selects and arranges sounds picked up by the microphone.
A transmitter and receiver/stimulator, which receive signals from the speech processor and convert them into electric impulses.
An electrode array, which is a group of electrodes that collects the impulses from the stimulator and sends them to the 8th auditory nerve.
How does a cochlear implant work?
A cochlear implant receives sound from the outside environment, processes it, and sends small electric currents near the auditory nerve. These electric currents activate the nerve, which then sends a signal to the brain. The brain learns to recognize this signal and the person experiences this as “hearing”.
The cochlear implant somewhat simulates natural hearing, where sound creates an electric current that stimulates the auditory nerve. However, the result is not the same as normal hearing.
Caring for CI Equipment
Because each recipient (CI wearer) should wear their CI daily, setting up a daily routine will help them to maintain a high quality of hearing and life.
A good morning routine would be putting on glasses (if used), dentures (if used), and finally the CI. Recipients may be able to do this on their own, but it may be nice to help and ensure that the CI is turned on and has enough battery power.
Ensure that each recipient is wearing their CI during all waking hours. This is especially important for toddlers and those with dementia who might be prone to removing their processor and resist wearing it.
Check your battery pack and/or batteries to ensure they are working.
In the evening, make sure that the CI is switched off and safely stored in a designated storage place so that it can be easily found the next morning.
In addition to this daily care, routine checkups can make sure that each recipient’s device is properly functioning, so that they are able to use it to the best of their abilities.
How to keep your CI functioning.
Assist a recipient in cleaning their audio processor regularly to help keep it free of any dust or moisture that might cover the microphone(s). Remember, these microphones are located in different positions depending on the processor so learning about the specific processor of the recipient is always a good idea.
Before a recipient goes to sleep, make sure that their processor is safely set aside. If the recipient has a drying kit, using it on a nightly basis will help to ensure that the processor stays dry.
On laundry day, make sure that the processor is not tossed in with the bed linens or clothing. The easiest way to do this is checking if the recipient is wearing their processor or has placed it in a designated storage location like their bedside table or drying kit.
The audio processor contains a magnet that can inadvertently attract itself to many different metal objects. If someone’s processor goes missing, start by checking around the bed, lamps, playground equipment or other metal objects that the processor magnet might have stuck to.
If the recipient has a sudden change in hearing or attention, use your owner’s manual to trouble shoot to ensure the CI is functioning properly
What is a Hearing Aid?
A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with a hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.
How can hearing aids help?
Hearing aids are primarily useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to the small sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This type of hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss. The damage can occur as a result of disease, aging, or injury from noise or certain medicines. A hearing aid magnifies sound vibrations entering the ear. Surviving hair cells detect the larger vibrations and convert them into neural signals that are passed along to the brain. The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss, and the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. However, there are practical limits to the amount of amplification a hearing aid can provide. In addition, if the inner ear is too damaged, even large vibrations will not be converted into neural signals. In this situation, a hearing aid would be ineffective.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid Implants
Sometimes, hearing aids are not the best option for people with hearing loss, and bone-anchored hearing systems are suggested as a more suitable option. Yet, many people aren't aware of what they are and how they work.
Unlike hearing aids, bone-anchored hearing systems are surgically implanted devices. They treat hearing loss through bone conduction of sound vibrations to the inner ear—this is in contrast to regular hearing aids, which amplify acoustic sounds that enter the ear canal. For this reason, bone-anchored systems are considered specialty devices for certain hearing loss conditions, which are described below.
Bone-anchored (BA) hearing systems, also known as bone-anchored auditory implants, are not to be confused with cochlear implants. While BA are also a type of surgically implanted device for hearing loss, bone-anchored hearing systems and cochlear implants treat different hearing problems.
How can I care for my hearing aid?
Proper maintenance and care will extend the life of your hearing aid. Make it a habit to:
Keep hearing aids away from heat and moisture.
Clean hearing aids as instructed. Ear wax and ear drainage can damage a hearing aid.
Avoid using hairspray or other hair care products while wearing hearing aids.
Turn off hearing aids when they are not in use.
Replace dead batteries immediately.
Keep replacement batteries and small aids away from children and pets.
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