cochlear implant stuff – as requested

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I’ve been asked to write a little more about cochlear implants. There are several links on the web for info of course but here is my amateurish version.

The cochlear is the sensory organ of hearing. It’s a spiral shell shaped thing in the inner ear. (From the Greek Kocklia which means spiral shell, medical words are like that) The cochlear in the petrous bones in the skull. The mechanical bits of the ear are the ossicles, they are three tiny bones that vibrate and transmit sound from the eardrum to the oval window (fenestra ovalis, Latin for oval window- you see how subtle anatomy terminology is?) on the outside of the cochlear. This wiggles the fluid in various bits of the cochlear about finally stimulating the cilia, or hairs in the cochlear. The hairs convert the vibrations into electrical impulses and these impulses are fed along the auditory nerve to the brain. The hairs near the oval window respond to high frequencies the low ones are further away at the far end of the spiral. This is probably why high frequencies go first, and importantly, too much vibration and jiggling of the fluid can damage those hairs, so take care with noise levels and wear ear plugs when you can.

A cochlear implant is a electronic implant into the cochlear that stimulates the auditory nerves. It has three bits on the outside of the head/, a microphone, a speech processor and the RF transmitter. On the inside, embedded in the skull is a receiver and processor. The transmitter is held over the receiver by a magnet.

Its not a hearing aid, it doesn’t work by amplification. It stimulates the auditory nerve directly. The audiologist told me that the sounds you hear are electronic noises, they don’t have the depth and tone of the sounds from ears. Yet some peoples brains manage to interpret the sounds without the electronic quality. My hearing aids tend to make everyone sound like mickey mouse on helium so I suppose I am used to this quality.

Once the implant is done you lose the residual hearing in that ear. This is the scary part.

The surgery takes 3- 4 hours, you have a huge bandage round your head for a few days. After about 4 weeks they switch you on, and tune up your speech processor. The quality of sound and understanding of it improves over a year or so, but many people have reported excellent results straight off.

So, my CT scan, ENG, and ENT appointments are in 4 weeks, then I will know if I am suitable. If so I will go on the waiting list and hope to be a cyborg sometime this year. Just call me Seven!! hah, as if!

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4 responses »

  1. Well that was easy enough to understand. Nicely explained. It does seem quite scary in a number of ways, but it would seem to me that this is something that only you can decide is right for you. I will be following your journey to become a cyborg with interest. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Mog,
    I do want to clarify on my last post. I did hear birds with one implant, just not that particular species. The whistle of that bird was higher and more shrill and if I had heard it before, it was probably getting drowned out by cars, lawnmowers and such.

    Regarding what your audiologist said “electronic noises” – The cochlear implants I have are capable of delivering 100,000 digital impulses per second. The program I have now delivers about 18,000. We may never need the 100,000 – but you just never know what they will come up with next. What I hear is as natural sounding as I can remember. It is far better than any sound I gained with hearing aids. There is a certain amount of rehab that one should expect – it is not an overnight miracle for most and it is definitely worth it.

  3. “mickey mouse on helium”… haha!

    Thanks for writing this up, Mog. It’s really fascinating stuff, I had no idea! I agree though about losing any residual hearing, that is scary.

    The Bionic Woman, she can hear a whisper from a mile you know.

    If you are considered suitable are you going to go ahead? Or are you still debating the idea?

    – Marnie

  4. Great blog! I hope you’ll consider adding it to the aggregator at Deaf Village (www.deafvillage.com) — we’d love to have you as part of our community!

    –Elizabeth (www.cochlearimplantonline.com)

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