Hearing implants are one of the most effective ways to restore a sense of hearing for someone with significant sensorineural hearing loss. However, the result is always different for each recipient. It takes time for someone’s ears to adjust to the new sound stimulation from the hearing implant, and for the brain to learn what these sounds and sensations mean. And, each person’s cochlea is different which means it may receive the implant’s signals differently.
There are lots of different factors which influence how much benefit a hearing implant can provide to someone who receives one as an adult. In this post, we will look at the six ways that your hearing history before an implant could influence your experience with the hearing implant later on.
Your hearing loss history can influence how they hear once they receive a cochlear implant. Here are 6 factors how hearing history can affect how you hear with your implant.
1: Age when the hearing loss first occurred
If you lost their hearing later in life, your brain will already be used to listening. You will have already developed neural pathways for sound in your brain. These pathways are used to match meaning to a sound—both environmental sounds and the sounds of language. After receiving a hearing implant, these neural pathways can support listening development as they re-learn to hear with an implant.
2: Age at the time of implantation
There is no age limit for when someone can receive a hearing implant! Individuals over 90 years of age have been able to enjoy sound with an implant! 80-year-old Barbara is just one example! Most adults receive an implant when they are “post-lingually deafened”, meaning that their hearing loss happened after they’ve developed language skills. Their rehabilitation will involve activities that help their brain to re-engage with sounds and words they knew before receiving the implant.
3: Time between hearing loss and implantation
Having a long-term hearing loss isn’t a reason to not get a hearing implant. However, learning to adjust to hearing with an implant may take longer if there has been a significant length of time between the start of the significant hearing loss and implantation.
4: Residual hearing
Residual hearing means that some of the delicate hair cells in the cochlea are still intact and able to perceive sounds. The more residual hearing you have, the more opportunities your brain has had to listen, learn and make meaning from the sounds you’ve heard. This hearing can then support your brain to interpret and understand the meaning of sounds you will hear with a cochlear implant. That’s why preserving residual hearing is so important, and why we at MED-EL use electrode arrays that are uniquely soft and flexible.
5: The cause of the hearing loss
It’s not always possible to identify the cause of someone’s hearing loss. However, when it can be identified, this information can guide your hearing professional to help you achieve the best outcome with your implant.
6: Hearing aid use before implantation
For someone with good residual hearing, hearing aids can help the brain to receive sound despite hearing loss. This helps to maintain the auditory pathways in a person’s brain, and may help with making the transition to hearing with a hearing implant.
This post was written with help from R Sheetal, an speech language pathologist and clinical specialist at MED-EL.
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