25 February 2017
Saturday 25th February is International Cochlear Implant Day. It is a time to spread awareness about this incredible technology and celebrate the difference that cochlear implants have made in the lives of people around the world. But what is a cochlear implant? And what is the impact of this technology for people who are deaf?
What is a cochlear implant?
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device which provides people who are deaf, or who have a severe hearing loss with access to sound. The implant is made up of 4 parts:
Microphone: for picking up sound
Speech Processor: selects and arranges sound from the microphone
Transmitter and Receiver: converts the signals from the speech processor and turns them into electric impulses
Electrode array: group of electrodes which collect impulses from the receiver and send them to the auditory nerve.
The receiver and electrode array are surgically implanted into the inner ear (cochlear), and under the skin on the side of the head (beside the ear).
This video from Advanced Bionics gives a great description of how a cochlear implant works.
Hearing for the first time?
The internet is awash with videos of children, and adults, having their cochlear implants switched on. These videos show the first time the person has been given access to sound and the reactions are often dramatic and emotional. However, not every switch on has such a marked result.
It takes therapy and time for the brain to be able to comprehend this new stimulus.
After the switch on?
This is where organisations like the Cora Barclay Centre come in.
After receiving a cochlear implant it is vital that a child then undertakes therapy to allow the brain to properly deal with the sounds it is receiving, giving a child the best chance to learn to listen and speak.
At the Cora Barclay Centre we provide Auditory-Verbal Therapy as the process to achieve listening and spoken language for children with a hearing loss. This is an evidence based, effective approach which results in almost all of the children who access our early intervention program having age appropriate speech and language by the time they reach school. In 2015 70% of children in our Early Intervention and Students Services achieved spoken language outcomes commensurate with their hearing peers.
The success achieved by families attending the Cora Barclay Centre is very much a combined effort. Therapists teach families techniques and facilitate families to be motivated, dedicated and surround the child with experiences and language.
Of course the journey for every cochlear implant recipient is different. Some will have had progressive hearing loss, some will still be babies, and some will have been deaf from birth and have decided to have an implant later in life. For every one of these people their switch on and therapy path will be different, but in general, the outcomes are positive.