Success Rate of a Cochlear Implant

Concerned About the Success Rate of a Cochlear Implant?

If you are hoping for a bionic ear that will impart exceptional hearing abilities, then you are going to be seriously disappointed. Nevertheless, there are many thousands of grateful recipients of implanted assisted-hearing devices worldwide, who would not hesitate to claim that this innovative procedure has totally transformed their lives.

Intended for use by those who are unable to gain any significant benefit from a conventional hearing aid, the fact that these devices must be implanted surgically can be perceived as something of a deterrent by some. Typically, the sceptics are those who harbour concerns regarding the success rate of a cochlear implant, and who are therefore uncertain whether the cost and invasive nature of the procedure will be sufficiently justified. Fortunately, there are three important factors that should serve to reassure even the most sceptical candidates.

  1. The Hardware Has Evolved Beyond Recognition
Experiments using electrical current to simulate the sensation of sound were first conducted as far back as the mid-19th century, and progressed as researchers first applied electrodes externally to the skull, and later, inserted them into the ear canal. Even though their subjects experienced noises, these efforts did nothing to improve their hearing, and it was only in 1950 that a Swedish neurosurgeon applied an alternating current directly to a patient’s auditory nerve, and later learned that it had been perceived, not as a noise, but as a tone. With the proof of concept established, research gained momentum and in January 1961, two American doctors implanted a single electrode into the vestibular duct, replacing it with a 4-channel setup in the following month.

At that stage, the work remained largely experimental, but the findings have since made the high success rate of the cochlear implants in use today possible. Modern units employ multiple electrode arrays in which each is precisely tuned and accurately positioned within the scala tympani, to ensure coverage of all audible frequencies. External sensitive microphones transmit sounds to a processor that converts it to a digital signal relayed by a transmitter to a tiny wireless receiver implanted in the mastoid bone. This then delivers the signal to the connected electrode, enabling the auditory nerve to stimulate the sound centres in the brain, thus bypassing damaged sensory cells.

  1. Surgeons Have Become More Adept
What was once the subject of tentative experiments, has since become a widely practiced surgical procedure. This can be attributed, in part, to the numerous technical improvements it has undergone during the almost five decades since it first became a practical option. In addition, the experience gained from dealing with multiple cases that can often call for differing approaches, has prepared them to tackle every likely contingency and so, from a purely surgical viewpoint, the consistently high success rate of a cochlear implant procedure must rank it among the most successful interventions practiced today.

  1. The Criterium for Screening Candidates is Stringent
Just as a seasoned punter will be sure to scrutinise a horse’s form before placing a bet, the ENT surgeon must make certain that any candidate on whom he or she may agree to operate has the best possible chance of benefitting from the implanted device. Like the quality of the device and the skills of the surgeon, the suitability of a given candidate is crucial to a successful outcome.

Audiometric thresholds are the primary motivation for candidacy. Only adults and children with moderate to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, and for whom a conventional hearing aid has been shown to offer no significant benefit, will be considered.

Thereafter, candidates will be required to undergo some clinical investigations. These could include spirometry and an ECG to determine the patient’s ability to withstand the effect of the anaesthetic and rigours of the procedure. In addition, X-rays and perhaps a CT scan may be required to determine whether there could be any anatomical anomalies that could complicate the surgery itself, or perhaps adversely affect the outcome.

While such measures mean that some candidates may not be considered, stringent screening helps to maintain the high success rate of cochlear implant surgery.

If you feel that you or a member of your family might be a candidate for this procedure, be sure to make an appointment with your nearest Ear Institute clinic or associated partner for professional audiometry services, expert advice, world-class implants, and access to experienced ENT surgeons.
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