Technical Description

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A Description of Cochlear Implants

A Cochlear Implant is a specialized hearing device that consists of both a surgically-implanted and external component used to simulate natural hearing. This device is used to treat people with severe and profound hearing loss. The implanted component is placed under the skin, behind the patient’s ear, and connected to the auditory nerve of the brain. The Cochlear Implants are designed to receive sounds and convert them into electrical signals that bypass the damaged nerves, allowing the brain to interpret the electrical signals.

How has the use of Cochlear Implant technology grown? Cochlear Implants have been approved since the mid-1980’s but research on this technology grew in the 1950’s. The first known implant was implemented in the 1950’s, but the patient could only hear static. By 1972, a few thousand people had successfully received the implant due to greatly improved technology. In 2002, it was estimated that 59,000 people had received Cochlear Implants and six years later, an estimated 150,000 patients nationwide had received the implant. From 2002-2008, the number of implant procedures nearly tripled as more people saw the value of the device. Cochlear Implants are a growing field, however only a small portion of the deaf community has been implanted with this device.

What is natural hearing?
With little or no hearing loss, a person hears using the natural hearing process (Figure 1): sound enters the ear (blue arrow), travels down the auditory canal to the ear drum (green arrow), transfers from the ear drum to the cochlea (or “inner ear”), and is converted by the cochlea into electrical signals (red arrow) that pass through the Vestibular cochlear nerve to the brain (purple arrow). The cochlea transforms sound into electrical signals using tiny hearing hairs inside it.

FIGURE 1 The natural hearing process. Image courtesy of howstuffworks.com

What causes deafness?
In some deaf

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