It may be time to consider a cochlear implant if you are finding you can only understand speech in the most ideal quiet environments (typically one on one conversation) and all other situations have become difficult even with the use of hearing aids. For example, if you are struggling to understand speech over the phone or on TV (without relying on closed captioning) or if you cannot follow speech in large or small group environments, you may be reaching cochlear implant candidacy.
The first step in determining if a cochlear implant may be the right solution for your hearing needs is to schedule a Cochlear Implant Evaluation. During the evaluation, the audiologist will review any prior hearing test records, complete speech testing with your hearing aids, and speak to you about your current struggles. In some cases, the audiologist may recommend optimization of your hearing aids and a subsequent trial period, prior to meeting with a surgeon to discuss cochlear implantation.
If test results determine you are a good candidate for a cochlear implant, it is important to understand speech will likely sound very different (beeping, buzzing, static) when the implant is activated. This is because the brain is learning to make sense of and accept the electrical stimulation to the hearing nerve. Each day the sound gets better allowing you to first detect speech sounds, followed by understanding words and sentences. Speech is sometimes described as mechanical, metallic or cartoonish. This is because the brain is now gaining access to high frequency sounds that were not available through a hearing aid.
Each patient’s journey is different, so it is important to know that learning to hear with a cochlear implant is a process, not an instantaneous cure. Overtime, sound becomes more natural, but will not be the same as “normal hearing”. The goal is for you to detect sounds at the same volume as people with normal hearing which allows for greater confidence and independence in a variety of listening situations.
Get the answers to frequently asked questions about cochlear implants.