Where to Get Cochlear Implants in South Africa

Cochlear implants in South Africa are offered by the Ear Institute. We are represented in South Africa and Namibia through more than 19 centres.

What is a Cochlear Implant?

It is a small, electronic based apparatus that can assist in giving some sense of sound to a person suffering from complete or profound deafness. The medical specialist places the implant in the ear under the skin through a surgical procedure. One should understand the cochlear implant cannot replace hearing or restore it to a level of normal hearing, but it can help a person to gain auditory understanding of speech and the environment sounds.

Cochlear implants have been available since 1990 and many thousands of deaf or exceptionally hard hearing persons in South Africa have already benefitted from the usage of such. The implants compensate for non-working parts in the ear, and more specifically the inner ear.

How does it Work?

The electronic device finds sounds that are useful and then transmits such sounds to the brain. As such it is not exactly the same as normal hearing, but it can be useful for a hard hearing person to also follow a telephone conversation. Cochlear implants make use of the things that the ear can do even after hair cells have been damaged.

There are five parts in the implant:

  • Microphone – captures the sound
  • Speech processor – converts sound into digital information
  • Transmitter – sends the signals to the implant
  • Receiver – receives the signals
  • Electrode array

Basically the sound is first captured by the microphone and the processor then converts it to digital information. The magnetic headpiece does the sending of digital sound to cochlear device, which sends electrical signals to the hearing nerve that sends impulses to the brain where such are interpreted.

Suitable Candidates

The team of experts at the centres offering Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant systems will do the evaluation. You should first contact our Ear Institute in Pretoria to locate the nearest centre to you that offers the assessment services. The level of hearing loss and the ability to hear with assistance of hearing aids is evaluated. An MRI is performed to get images of the inner ear and to assess whether an electrode array can be implanted. The patient is also evaluated in terms of health risks to determine medical health for a surgery.

The team of experts consist of audiologists, surgeons and rehabilitation surgeons as well as psychologists where needed. The team may recommend a trial period of wearing a powerful hearing aid and speech perception testing is performed to determine whether the patient will be able to understand speech if such a system is implanted.

If the patient is still very young, the team will do an auditory brainstem evaluation while the child is sedated or sleeps on their own accord. If you are an adult with severe hearing loss in both ears and experience no to little benefit from the usage of hearing aids you may be a suitable candidate. For a child, delayed speech is considered. 

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