Currently, about 1 in 4 American adults suffer from some form of diagnosable hearing problem. Two of the most common hearing issues faced by today’s population include age-related hearing loss (which occurs at a rate of about 0.5 percent per year) and tinnitus. However, there are many other conditions you may be suffering from as well including hyperacusis, sensorineural hearing loss, misophonia, and many others.
Because each person experiencing hearing issues is different, it will be crucial to choose an audiologist or hearing center that can offer a range of different possible solutions. In some cases, tinnitus retraining therapy, sound therapy, or hearing aids may be recommended. In others, cochlear implants will be the ideal solution.
Cochlear implants are usually recommended for individuals who have extreme hearing problems. Some of these individuals may even have already been diagnosed as “profoundly” deaf. While cochlear implants are generally not considered to be a “cure” for deafness, they have been extremely beneficial for many people with hearing issues. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), about 96,000 Americans currently rely on cochlear implants in order to hear.
In this article, we will help explain some of the most important things to know about cochlear implants, including how cochlear implant mapping works. By understanding the incredible hearing benefits these devices can provide—and by speaking with a licensed audiologist—you can determine if these devices are right for you.
What are Cochlear Implants?
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), “A cochlear implant is a small, complex electronic device that can help to provide 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.”
These implants are made up of four primary components. These components include a microphone responsible for capturing sound, an intermediary speech processor, a transmitter that converts signals into electrical impulses, and an electrode array that effectively delivers the impulses directly to the auditory nerve. As a result, a cochlear implant can help “simulate” the process of hearing, even for some individuals whose natural hearing capacities have been entirely diminished.
What is Cochlear Implant Mapping?
Cochlear implants are unique and will be designed to meet the specific needs of the individual that is using them. These implants, unlike some hearing aids and other hearing devices, cannot simply be purchased without an initial customization process. The term “cochlear implant mapping” is used to describe the process of creating implants that are specific to the user.
To effectively “map” and program a cochlear implant, your audiologist will need to understand where your biggest hearing difficulties actually exist. To do this, the audiologist will administer a test using a series of beeps and other strategies to better understand your ability to hear. The “T level” of your cochlear implant, the threshold level, indicates the noises that you are currently capable of hearing. The “C level”, or comfort level, indicates the volumes you are comfortable hearing. Improved computer programs have made the process of cochlear implant mapping much easier, though this process will still need to be completed by a trained audiologist.
How are Cochlear Implants Different from Hearing Aids?
Though both cochlear and hearing aids have the same underlying purpose—helping the user hear at their absolute best—there are still quite a few ways that these hearing devices are unique. Generally speaking, cochlear implants are reserved for individuals with profound hearing loss or deafness while hearing aids will be used for individuals with hearing loss that is less intense. Unsurprisingly, there are nearly 100 times as many hearing aid users in the United States as there are cochlear implant users.
According to a report from Consumer Affairs, the cost of cochlear implants can be as much as $100,000, while hearing aids will cost about $1,000 to $4,000. Both products do sometimes have financing options available, but it is clear why hearing aids are much more common. Furthermore, while hearing aids can simply be placed directly into your ear, cochlear implants will require surgery. Nevertheless, cochlear implants have helped many people hear better, even when hearing aids were proven to be ineffective.
What are the Benefits of Cochlear Implants?
As suggested, the primary reason people choose to have cochlear implants is that they can functionally enable them to hear, even when no other hearing options were effective. These implants are usually reserved for individuals who are considered to be deaf or nearly deaf, which is only a small fraction of the population. In other words, cochlear implants are the most intense and effective form of hearing treatment that is currently available. While individuals who are suffering from general and statistically common hearing issues will be directed towards hearing aids or other hearing treatments, the potential impact of cochlear implants simply cannot be denied.
Where can I Purchase Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear implants will need to be mapped and installed by licensed professionals. Usually, these implants will be mapped by an audiologist and then surgically installed via an otolaryngologist (ENT). In most cases, the best place to access the audiologist you will need for the initial diagnosis, mapping, and references will be at a nearby hearing center.
Hearing centers perform many different functions. For many people, hearing tests, tinnitus treatment, help with hearing aids, and ear cleaning will be among the most important functions these centers provide. However, for those who are suffering from the most severe hearing problems, cochlear implant mapping will be among the most important services being provided. With advanced mapping techniques, it will be much easier to create a hearing solution that is perfect for you and you will be able to maximize the value of your cochlear implants.
Conclusion – Mapping Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are an advanced type of hearing device that has been proven to help individuals experiencing the most intense hearing conditions. Though expensive, cochlear implants can effectively restore the hearing of many individuals who have been diagnosed as profoundly deaf. After speaking with an audiologist, you will be able to determine if cochlear implants are right for you.