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Bring Hearing to Children with Cochlear Implants

By: Kimberley Powell
Deaf Children Can Learn to Listen and Speak
© Kimberley Powell Oct 25, 2008
Cochlear implants are widely recognized as an appropriate intervention for children with bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss.
Cochlear implants are the first device to successfully restore neural function. Different from hearing aids that boost sound to the outer ear, cochlear implants send electrical signals directly to the inner ear and the auditory nerve.
Cochlear implantation in children should be considered only after a comprehensive audiological, speech-language and medical evaluation of the child are completed. Typically children will undergo a trial period with appropriate amplification in conjunction with an aural (re)habilitation program emphasizing the development of auditory/oral skills.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. On the other hand, cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. A cochlear implant allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and enjoy a conversation in person or by telephone. Each implant system consists of two parts; an internal component and an external component.
The internal component consists of a decoder and magnet housed in protective casing. The electrode array extends from this casing. The surgeon will drill into the skull to make a “bed” for the decoder. The remainder of the internal component sits on the skull but under the skin. The magnet picks up the information provided from the external components. The internal component then determines which electrodes will fire with what power/current.
The external components consist of a microphone, a series of cords, a transmitting coil and a speech processor. Each part must be worn in order for the device to work. The microphone picks up sounds preferentially from the front of the listener and transmits the sound along the long cord to the speech processor. The speech processor contains a program individual to each listener indicating the minimum amount of current needed for a sensation of first hearing and the maximum amount of current tolerable. This program extracts the most important aspects of the incoming speech signal and transmits this information back up the long cord across to the transmitting coil. The signal travels across the skin via radio frequencies to the internal component. The decoder of the internal component takes this information and determines which electrodes will fire and with what power. This processing of sound takes place in real time.
How Does Someone Receive a Cochlear Implant?
Criteria for candidacy continues to change as technology and surgical procedures advance. Use of a cochlear implant requires both a surgical procedure and substantial therapy to learn or relearn the sense of hearing.
Factors which may affect outcomes include: duration of hearing loss, amount of residual hearing, age of identification and intervention, age at implantation, status of the cochlea/cochlear nerve as well as other medical conditions.
While the technology now available for people who are deaf and hard of hearing is already quite effective, it continues to improve all the time. Major advances are continually being made, so that children with severe to profound hearing losses can now have access to sound which can be used for effective development of oral language. An implant does not restore normal hearing. Instead, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help him or her to understand speech.
The copyright of the article Bring Hearing to Children with Cochlear Implants in Deafness is owned by Kimberley Powell. Permission to republish Bring Hearing to Children with Cochlear Implants in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.
Reprinted with the express permission of Kimberley Powell.
Our Featured Author: Kimberley Powell
Kim Powell holds a Master’s Degree in Speech & Language Pathology as well as certificates in reading Braille, Applied Studies in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, Child Psychology, Acquired Brain Injuries, oral deaf education and Child abuse.
Over the years, Kim has had the opportunity to work with children with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, acquired brain injuries & fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. During her free time, Kim volunteers at her local Children’s Aid Society, sits on the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) committee for Resources for Exceptional Children and works as a child abuse prevention educator for the Red Cross. Kim values the opportunity to work with so many children and help make a small difference in the lives of children and families. She continues to advocate for a system that will guarantee that every child/youth – regardless of geography, parental income and the level of challenge access to quality support services that respond to their individual needs.
Please support of Authors visit Kimberly Powell’s blog HERE

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