It is estimated that 90 percent of children and 80 percent of adults with cochlear implants improve their hearing.
According to a comprehensive Spanish study among 877 children and adult patients, cochlear implants improve hearing and offer a successful treatment when hearing aids are not suitable for a child or an adult with severe hearing loss.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device surgically implanted into the inner ear. It converts sound signals into electrical signals which are transmitted into the hearing nerve.
Small implant, great results
The best results were found among children who received the cochlear implant at 0-3 years of age. They achieved 90 to 95 percent hearing and language improvement. 80-90 percent of these children develop a hearing and speech equal to those of children with normal hearing.
Among the adults, up to 80 percent improved their hearing in terms of recognition of environmental sounds, voice control, speech comprehension and performance of an interactive conversation. Some limitations were found in noisy environments, long distances and crowded conversation.
Yet, most adult patients experienced an improvement in their quality of life with respect to their mental state and social life.
In Spain, about 3,800 people have cochlear implants. Among these, 61 percent are children with hearing loss, and 39 percent are adults. Worldwide, about 80.000 people have cochlear implants.
Early detection and early implantation provide best results
Early detection of hearing loss and early cochlear implant treatment is crucial for patients to recover and improve hearing.
Several studies confirm that the duration of hearing loss before cochlear implantation significantly affects the hearing recovery and improve hearing resulting from the implants. Many years of hearing impairment makes full recovery difficult. One possible explanation is that the brain has a â€œmemory for soundsâ€. The longer a person has gone without listening to and identifying sounds the more difficult it is for the brain to recognize the electrical signals transmitted by the cochlear implant as sound signals.
Other factors, such as congenital disorders affecting the state of the cochlear may improve hearing and adversely affect hearing recovery, as well. In adults in particular, stimulation strategies after surgery play an important role in hearing recovery, which also depends much on patient motivation and a supportive and understanding family.
Source: Analysis of the Cochlear Implant as a Treatment Technique for Profound Hearing Loss in Pre and Postlocutive Patients, Acta Otorrinolaringol Esp 2006; 57: 2-23 Volume 57, nÂº 1, January 2006, andelpais.es, 13 October 2006.
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