Candidates for cochlear implantation who move forward with the procedure are always informed of the potential risks and benefits and the impact it may have on their life.
Hearing loss isolates people from society in a way that is much different than other disabilities. A cochlear implant, therefore, can dramatically affect quality of life for the better. Over time, most implant recipients can rejoin the acoustic world in many ways.
The benefits of cochlear implants can vary from individual to individual depending on a variety of factors, which include the length of time they have experienced hearing loss and the degree of rehabilitation required following surgery.
For most good candidates, the benefits are significant:
- General sound awareness
- Hearing and understanding other’s speech
- Improvement of the user’s own speech
- Listening in a noisy environment
- Use of a telephone
Most adult cochlear implant patients notice an immediate improvement in their communication skills. Children require time to benefit from their cochlear implant as the brain needs to learn to correctly interpret the electrical sound input.
While cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing, 90 percent of adult cochlear implant patients are able better to discriminate speech without the use of visual cues. Improvement in auditory perception (hearing) following cochlear implantation varies widely from patient to patient.
There are many factors that contribute to the degree of benefit a user receives from a cochlear implant, including:
- How long a person has been deaf
- The number of surviving auditory nerve fibers
- A patient’s motivation to learn to hear.
Cochlear implant surgery is a safe and well-tolerated procedure, but it is surgery, and with all surgeries there are related risks.
Your surgeon will discuss these potential risks with you:
- Infection in the implant area
- Ringing in the ears
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Numbness around the ear
- Changes in taste
- Dry mouth
- Injury to the facial nerve, which can cause movement problems in the face
- Infection of the membrane that covers the brain (meningitis)
- Risks of general anesthesia
- Need to have the implant removed because of an infection
It is important to remember that cochlear implant surgery should be viewed as the first step in a long process. Each recipient will have varied performance with the cochlear implant and the full scope of benefits is not immediate – improvements occur over a period of months or years.