The Facts about Cochlear Implant Surgery

Unfortunately, conventional hearing aids simply do not work for some of those who have been affected by deafness. Until relatively recently, such individuals would simply have been condemned to a lifetime of silence. However, a procedure known as cochlear implant surgery is now proving to be a life-changing option for many of these individuals. The process involves the implantation of a device that is able to substitute for the normal conductive pathway provided by the outer and middle chambers of the ear and to stimulate the auditory nerve directly, even in cases where there may be damage to the sensory hair cells of the inner ear.

It needs to be emphasised, however, that this procedure does not amount to a cure for hearing loss. In practice, it is simply an alternative means by which to manage the condition in subjects for whom conventional hearing aids are found to provide no significant improvement. It is an option that is generally reserved for the treatment of those with severe to profound hearing loss, and who also meet certain additional prescribed criteria. Given the invasive nature of cochlear implant surgery and the cost of the various stages that it involves, it is important for the attending surgeon to be as confident as possible that his or her intervention will be of sufficient benefit to justify it. This requires each candidate to be thoroughly evaluated before making the decision to proceed.

Typically, the evaluation process will involve an examination by an ENT specialist to note the presence of any disease processes or anatomical anomalies, and audiological testing both with and without hearing aids. A CT scan to assess the status of the cochlea is also routinely included. The decision as to whether or not to proceed will hinge upon the summarised findings

Prior to the procedure, which requires between 60 to 75 minutes to complete, the patient is given an intravenous antibiotic for prophylactic purposes and then anaesthetised. An incision is made behind the ear and a well drilled in the mastoid bone into which the cochlear implant is inserted. The surgery continues with the placement of the attached electrode array. Upon closure, using the flaps created during the incision, a BTE (behind-the-ear) receiver may be positioned where it will then be held in place magnetically by the implanted component, receiving and re-transmitting the wireless signals from the microphone.

Phonak is an established leader in the field of assisted hearing and a pioneer in the development of these implanted devices. Now supplied under the marque of Advanced Bionics, they are widely hailed by the ENT fraternity as the product of choice when undertaking cochlear implant surgery.

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