What Is An Individualized Cochlear Implant?

The best shoes are the ones that fit your feet. And the best cochlear implant is the one that fits your ear! As the name suggests, an individualized cochlear implant is one that is designed to fit your individual cochlea. Why is this important? Because it means you can hear as well as you possibly can.


The Right Electrode Array

So when we say individualized cochlear implant, we’re talking about a specific part of the implant: the electrode array. The electrode array is the long wire at the end, which is inserted into your cochlea during surgery. This wire stimulates the nerve cells in your cochlea, which send sound signals to your brain and allows you to hear.

How long should your electrode array be? Well, different parts of the cochlea are responsible for sounds at different pitches, so your electrode array should be long enough to cover all the parts of your cochlea. If your electrode array is too short, you might miss some of those lower bass tones. And that makes it hard to hear properly.


The Right Fit

But here’s the thing: cochleae come in all shapes and sizes. You’re more likely to have the same size feet as somebody else, than the same size cochlea. When you go to the shoe shop, there is a range of different sizes available so you can choose the ones that fit your feet. With cochlear implants, there is a range of different sized electrode arrays available so that your surgeon can choose the one that best fits your cochlea.

How do they do that? Well first they have to measure your cochlea using methods such as a CT scan. That gives them an idea of how long your cochlea is, so they can have the right electrode array prepared for your surgery. With modern technology, it’s getting easier and easier to measure people’s cochleae. Tools like the revolutionary OTOPLAN are so exact, that a surgeon can quickly see which is the right electrode array for your individual cochlea.


The Right Shape

And it’s not just about length. Many people with hearing loss have malformed or ossified cochleae, and a regular electrode array may not be the best fit. Thankfully though, there are also options available if you have a more unusual cochlea.

If your cochlea is malformed and doesn’t have much space for an implant, your surgeon could go for a tiny compressed electrode array. Alternatively if your cochlea is partially ossified, your surgeon could make two holes in your cochlea and insert a split electrode array to cover as much of it as possible. Or like MED-EL user Mary Beth, your surgeon might bring several electrode arrays to the surgery. That way they can do tests during the surgery, and then choose the electrode array that best fits your cochlea.

Want to know which individualized cochlear implant is right for you? Contact your nearest clinic for more information about individualized cochlear implants.



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