Your child was unable to hear, and you gave him or her hearing aids. Now he or she is able to hear - no doubt about that. He wasn’t responding to any sounds previously, now he/she is able to. He or she is even smiling when you are clapping, playing some music, singing some nursery rhyme, or playing some musical toy. Your child is also responding to sounds like ‘ma ma’, ‘pa pa’, ‘da da’, etc.
But are you sure whether your child is really able to hear each and every sound that a normal hearing peer can? Do you know that your child might actually be missing out those natural sounds of the environment, such as the rustling of the leaves, the pitter-patter of rain, the chirping of the birds, and such other soothing sounds. You might think that these sounds are negligible and it is not necessary to hear them. But it’s high time that you realise that these little sounds are the food for the brain. We often take these sounds for granted, but your brain needs to get each and every sound stimulus to stay activated and in working condition! It’s time to upgrade your device and switch to a good hearing loss treatment procedure!
Even the most powerful digital hearing aids won’t work or give much benefits, if your child is born with or acquire severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. Yes it is true that he or she will be able to hear some sounds, but he or she on the other hand, might miss out the others, which are indeed important! Furthermore, there have been numerous cases, in which the child is able to hear, but not understand or relate to the meaning of those sounds.
In more serious cases, the child might face difficulties in hearing conversations, which is dangerous! Being deprived of the ability to listen to speech and conversations, the child would never learn speech and language skills, especially spoken language - which is the most important thing among the developmental milestones. This in turn would hamper his or her educational achievements. And sadly, even the most advanced hearing aids would fail to make the child listen to these minute and detailed sounds, including speech and conversations amongst people. Because hearing aids do nothing more than simply amplifying the sounds for you, which you were unable to hear! They would have nothing to do if there is some internal damage to your ear.
Why Won’t Hearing Aids Help?
In cases of severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss, the cochlea of the inner ear - which is the most important organ of the human ear - gets damaged partially or completely. Inside the cochlea, there are tiny hair cells which are responsible for converting the analog sound waves received from the outer ear, via the middle ear ossicles (the tiny ear bones which vibrate on receiving the external sounds, thus providing further motion to the sound waves), into electrical impulses. These electrical signals are then sent to the brain via the auditory nerve. The auditory centre of the brain then processes these sounds and it is only then that we actually ‘hear’!
Unfortunately, these highly sensitive hair cells won’t be recovered once damaged! Hearing aids neither have the capability to replace these hair cells nor the cochlea. So the solution is to upgrade to something more powerful, which would have the capability to replace the damaged cochlea. And cochlear implants are the ones which have this ability!
What are Cochlear Implants and How Do They Actually Work?
Cochlear implants are electronic devices which are much better than hearing aids, which do nothing more than simply amplifying the sounds they receive to enable you to hear them clearly. On the contrary, cochlear implants bypass the damaged cochlea and stimulate the auditory nerve directly. Because the damaged inner ear which is supposed to stimulate the auditory nerve, is unable to do so - the cochlear implant is performing this function for you. The cochlear implants perform the role of converting the sound stimuli and generating electrical signals, and then finally sending them to the brain via the auditory nerve. The brain then recognises these signals as sounds, and only then do we perceive them. In brief, the cochlear implants are performing the whole functioning of the inner ear, thus replacing the damaged inner ear.
Talking about the technical composition of the cochlear implant device, we can find that they consist of two parts - the external part, which sits behind the ear, and the internal part, which is surgically placed just beneath the skin under the external component. Having a close lookup at each of these components, we can find that the external part consists of a microphone, a speech processor and a transmitter. The microphone picks up and received the external sound waves, the speech processor after analysing and digitising them, sends these signals to the transmitter, which - worn on the head just behind the ear - then further sends these signals to the receiver of the internal component of the cochlear implant device.
The internal component of the implant includes a receiver as mentioned above, and one or more array of electrodes. The receiver is surgically placed just underneath the skin on the temporal bone (situated at the sides and the base of the skull). It collects the digitised sound signals received from the transmitter of the external component and further converts them into electrical impulses. These converted sound signals are then dispatched by the receiver into the electrodes which are surgically inserted in the inner ear, including the inside part of the cochlea. In short, these electrodes travel all the way down the inner ear, wind up inside the cochlea, thus stimulating the auditory nerve fibers. The auditory nerve then performs its natural function of transmitting these sound signals to the brain, which then processes them in its auditory processing centre, thus enabling us to perceive and interpret these signals as sounds.
What are the Benefits of Cochlear Implants?
First things first, it is very important to realise the type of hearing loss your child is suffering from. Your responsibility as a parent is to go through a proper diagnostic procedure to get hold of the root of the problem. Once you are properly aware of the type and degree of hearing loss your child is suffering from, you, along with the guidance of your Audiologist will be able to figure out which hearing loss treatment method to go for, to help your child manage and cope with their long-term issues and needs, such as their developmental skills, academic and intellectual needs.
Young children who are born with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss have significant impairments in speech and language skills. It is because a child learns by learning right from the time they are in their mother’s womb. Each and every sound stimulus they receive carries a particular meaning to which they associate something. If a child is born with some hearing problems, he or she won’t be able to learn anything properly, neither would they develop good speech and language skills.
Now you might ask, ‘What if I wait for sometime? My child’s hearing might get better?’, or even a query like this might run along in your mind - ‘My child is responding well when I am calling him or her, or when I am clapping my hands, or playing a sound producing toy. Then why should I even have a concern of my child’s hearing?
The reality is that even if your child is able to hear certain sounds, as understood by his or her responding abilities upon hearing a loud sound nearby, he or she might not be able to listen to sounds coming from a distance, such as from the next room. It means that your child is suffering from some degree of hearing loss, which might not be noticeable to a normal person like you! But unfortunately, if you don’t start a treatment of this partial but alarming hearing loss, your child will start facing problems in many fields of his or her life - be it development of communication skills, in academics, or at the workplace in the future, and gradually he or she would start facing various socio-psychological problems.
And coming to the question of waiting, we would say that it is dangerous for your child! If your child is having permanent hearing loss, it would never recover on its own. And even if your child is suffering from temporary hearing loss - due to factors like allergies, ear infections, sudden exposure to loud noises, or certain medications - ww would recommend you to consult a licensed Audiologists without delaying any further, and start a hearing loss treatment at the earliest. Because, you never know when your child’s hearing problems would be cured, how serious it is, and what effects would it have on your child! After all it’s the matter of your child’s future!
And as already mentioned, sometimes even the most advanced and updated hearing aids fail to give much benefits. In that case, Audiologists suggest cochlear implants, which according to studies, have a success rate of about 99.82%. Yes you heard it right! So why not go for the best hearing loss treatment, when it comes to your child’s future?
So the benefits of cochlear implants as a hearing loss treatment include -
Development of age-appropriate communication abilities
Social skills and participation abilities
- Will be able to concentrate in the classroom better
- Will be able to hear speech better even in a noisy area
Well-being and happiness
Future life will be bright and successful
Candidacy for Cochlear Implants
Before you actually arrive at a conclusion of undergoing a cochlear implantation surgery, do consider the following eligibility criteria, and check whether your child is meeting them.
The child has profound hearing loss in both the ears.
The child has had very little or no benefit from hearing aids, even after using them for quite some time.
The child has age appropriate cognitive development.
There are no risks involved during the surgery due to other medical conditions.
The child understands (when able), along with his/her parents, his/her role in the successful use of cochlear implants.
The child is willing to (if able), along with his/her parents, to undergo the surgery.
The child has full support from the educational institution or the program that would help him/her in developing his/her auditory and language skills.
In any step or decision you take, do consult a certified and professional Audiologist. Apart from recommending the best possible hearing loss treatment for your child, he or she will also refer you to the best cochlear implant team. A skilful and professional team is extremely essential to make the surgery a success, and to secure your child’s future.
Why is an Early Intervention Necessary?
Research over the years have proved that babies start learning by the way of listening right from the mother’s womb. A child learns only by the way of listening. If he or she is not given proper access to hearing, the child would not be able to develop any of the communication skills - be it verbal or non-verbal. Moreover, it is very important that your child develops in every way according to the developmental milestones.
An early intervention will help a child to develop speech and language skills at the right time and at the appropriate age. There is a term called ‘Synaptic density’, which determines a child’s capability to learn and develop various skills such as learning and communication, along with other developmental skills. Synaptic density is the interconnection of several neurons which are present in the brain so as to exchange information. The more are the interconnections, the greater is the synaptic density, and the greater becomes the child’s ability to learn new things. The first 2-3 years of the child’s life are very crucial, as during this period a child’s synaptic density is the maximum - almost double as that of an adult. It means that during the first 2-3 years of age, a child’s cognitive function is the highest and his/her learning power attains its peak point. If the child is denied a healthy hearing health at this stage, he/she might not develop the necessary skills according to the golden rules of developmental milestones.
You as the parent of a hearing impaired child must always keep in mind that very limited amount of time is available within the sensitive period of the child’s cortical development, and to start an intervention procedure. Therefore, you should always indulge in an early intervention - as early as within 1-2 months of birth - to diagnose whether the child is born with any hearing problems. A good and healthy hearing will help the child achieve his/her goals successfully.
The best time for a child to undergo cochlear implantation surgery is before the period of learning speech and language skills.
What is the Difference Between Hearing and Listening?
Many times after a cochlear implantation, people complain that they are able to hear, but not able to understand. First of all let’s make it clear that hearing is different from listening. Hearing is the act of perceiving sounds with the help of the ear. If you are not a hearing impaired person, then hearing is simply an act which you do all the time, often unconsciously. While on the other hand, listening is something you consciously choose to do, that is you try to understand what is being heard. In this phenomenon your brain activity is involved in which it strives to process the actual meaning associated with a particular sound that you are hearing. Listening leads to learning.
In order to achieve that point with cochlear implants, and thus make a cochlear implantation surgery a success, you need to take part in Auditory Verbal Therapy sessions which follow the surgery. Join your child to regular such sessions, and make him or her understand everything he or she hears. This will help your child learn the age-appropriate developmental skills with ease. Studies show that if you go for a cochlear implantation at the appropriate time, and not ignore your newborn child’s hearing loss problems, your child will learn according to the developmental milestones, and will grow as equal to his or her normal hearing peers. This increases your child’s chances to achieve great things in the future.
What About the Expense?
We know that you have been worrying about how you could manage with the cost of undergoing a cochlear implantation. So here is a simple equation for you. Imagine you have a taken a hearing aid to cut down on the costs. But if you consider the matter in depth, you will find that you will have to spend on its after-sale services. Also, you will need to change your hearing aids after certain years, depending upon your hearing needs, and because hearing aids do not last for a lifetime. A cochlear implant device on the other hand, once implanted will last for a lifetime. You just need to upgrade from time to time. So if you calculate the overall cost of hearing aids and compare it to that of cochlear implants - it becomes more or less the same! Moreover, with cochlear implantation - being a more effective hearing loss treatment - you can get a permanent solution, especially when hearing aids fail to work!
There are many health insurance companies who cover cochlear implantation surgery. Additionally there are trustees and NGOs as well, who fund hearing impaired children who would undergo a cochlear implantation, such as the Salman Khan trust.
With so many options and facilities available, why should you waste your time thinking about the outcomes? It’s high time that you MUST ACT! Consult with your Audiologist and go for a cochlear implantation without delay, and secure your child’s future.
To learn more about the functioning of cochlear implants, visit our page: https://hearingplus.in/cochlear-implant/
Are you aware of any other benefits of cochlear implants? Do let us know in the comments section down below.