About Cochlear Implants

What is a Cochlear Implant?

A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.

It is a wire consisting of about 20 strands which is placed just below the scalp behind the ear and goes through the middle and inner ear until it is pressed against the auditory nerve. It works with a speech processor that is worn behind the ear. The speech processor converts sound into electrical signals which are then transmitted to the implanted internal wire.

Who qualifies for a cochlear implant?

People who are totally deaf or almost totally deaf, even when wearing powerful hearing aids.

How effective is the device?

While the effectiveness varies depending on a number of factors, virtually all recipients describe the outcome of the surgery as miraculous. They go from having no ability to communicate to hearing very well in most situations, even on the phone with no lip reading. It is life changing surgery.

How can I get a cochlear implant?

Currently the surgery is only done in Quebec City. A potential candidate must make a minimum of two trips to Quebec City for testing and assessments. Then, if accepted, there is another two or three day trip for the surgery. Finally, after a month for healing, the recipient must return for up to two weeks for the programming of the speech processor. Many people who would qualify cannot spend so much time away from their family or work. In other cases children cannot get the surgery because a parent cannot take off the time from work or due to other family obligations. If the surgery was available in montreal, it would be easy for people living in the greater Montreal area to get this surgery. To deny them the opportunity for this miraculous surgery is close to criminal. At the very least it is inhumane.

Cochlear Implant Diagram
  1. A sound processor worn behind the ear or on the body, captures sound and turns it into digital code. The sound processor has a battery that powers the entire system.
  2. The sound processor transmits the digitally-coded sound through the coil on the outside of your head to the implant.
  3. The implant converts the digitally-coded sound into electrical impulses and sends them along the electrode array placed in the cochlea (the inner ear).
  4. The implant's electrodes stimulate the cochlea's hearing nerve, which then sends the impulses to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.