Children who have bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss may be candidates for a cochlear implant (CI). A cochlear implant works differently than hearing aids. Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the inner ear and sends electrical signals directly to the hearing nerve. With more significant hearing loss, hearing aids may not be able to amplify acoustic information enough in order to detect and understand speech. In these cases, a cochlear implant may be recommended.
A cochlear implant includes an external sound processor, worn behind the ear or on the body, which processes the sound into a digital signal. An internal implant converts the digital information to electrical impulses along an electrode array inside the inner ear (cochlea), which stimulates the hearing nerve and sends impulses to the brain so they may be interpreted as sound.
Coupled with intensive post-implantation therapies, a cochlear implant can help a young child’s development of listening and spoken language. Being implanted early provides exposure to sound that is essential during the critical language-learning period the first 5 years of life. Per current FDA guidelines, a child must be at least 12 months of age in order to receive an implant.
How a Cochlear Implant Works
- The sound processor (A) captures sound and converts it into digital code.
- The sound processor transmits the digitally coded sound through the coil (B) to the implant (C) just under the skin.
- The implant converts the digitally coded sound to the electrical signals and sends them along the electrode array, which is positioned in the cochlea.
- The implant's electrodes stimulate the cochlea's hearing nerve fibres, which relay the sound signals to the brain to produce hearing sensations.
The Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program at Children's Hospital Oakland
The Department of Pediatric Audiology includes a full service Hearing and Speech Center
, Cochlear Implant Program
, and comprehensive Speech and Language services
. Children's Cochlear Implant Program has been one of the leading pediatric audiology services in Northern California since 1991.
Because Children's Hospital Oakland has many pediatric specialties in one location, we can offer team of experts from several areas of medicine working together to provide the highest quality care. Specialists from Children’s Hospital Oakland collaborate as a team to evaluate when a cochlear implant is right for your child. Children’s cochlear implant team includes pediatric surgeons, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, an educator/outreach liaison, and team coordinator—all specialitsts with advanced training in pediatrics. When evaluating a child’s potential with, and candidacy for a cochlear implant, many factors are taken into consideration including medical status, current language level, language potential, school program, and family involvement. Our cochlear implant team then works closely with each implanted child's family and educational-support team to achieve the maximum communication potential for that child.
Our diagnostic hearing evaluations include a combination of behavioral diagnostics and electrophysiologic measures. We are one of the few local facilities to offer sedated and non-sedated auditory brainstem response (ABR) evaluation for children age 0-21, as well as Central Auditory Processing (CAPD) evaluation for children age 7 and older. The tests we conduct are based upon your child’s individual needs and take into consideration a variety of factors, including your child’s developmental abilities, language, medical status, and/or type of amplification.