What is a cochlear implant?
Cochlear implants (CIs) are surgically implanted devices that bypass the damaged structures of the inner ear to create a sense of sound. They provide a sense of hearing for those with severe and profound hearing losses. An outside processor converts sounds to a digital signal and wirelessly sends it to the internal computer. The electrode directly stimulates the hearing nerve with electricity to create a sensation of sound. Nearly all patients perform better with their implant than they do with hearing aids. Most implantees can talk on the phone. Some implantees can hear well without additional hearing assistive technology or accommodations. Cochlear implants do not cure hearing loss. Successful users like Dr. Ruffin have learned how to navigate the hearing world despite these obstacles. He is passionate to help his patients achieve their own goals.
While results are very variable, CIs typically provide good speech perception in quiet settings. However, the poor clarity makes it difficult to hear in background noise and appreciate music. This simulation and a more in-depth simulation demonstrate the poor pitch perception provided by cochlear implants. Remember, these are simulations, CI patients do not hear the hiss, noise, and static.
Cochlear implant companies advertise many different features. Currently there is no evidence that suggests that one manufacturer has better outcomes than another.
- They often advertise the number of electrodes they provide. CIs have 16-24 electrodes. These electrodes provide more information than patients can actually use. Most patients can only perceive about 16 “channels” of sound provided by an implant.
- One company advertises its long electrode that “covers more of the cochlea.” There is no consistent or great evidence supporting this claim in independent studies.
- Speech processing strategies convert sound to electricity. There are a variety of different speech processing strategies such as “HiRes,” “ACE,” and “Fine Structure Processing.” None have been shown to be superior to others.
Who is a candidate for cochlear implants?
A cochlear implant candidate is anyone with sensorineural hearing loss who struggles to hear with well fit hearing aids. If you cannot hear more than 60% of words or sentences with hearing aids, you may be a cochlear implant candidate. We now implant people who are deaf in only one ear. Children as young as 6 months and adults over 100 years old benefit from cochlear implants.
Why choose Dr. Ruffin for your cochlear implants?
Dr. Chad Ruffin has had cochlear implants for 20 years. He is one of the first people born deaf to become a surgeon while using cochlear implants. Breaking this glass ceiling was challenging, and some obstacles are not obvious. Dr. Ruffin offers a pathway to ensure you not only have a successful cochlear implant surgery, but also the services and resources to help you maximize success after a cochlear implant.
His expertise is unlike any cochlear implant surgeon worldwide. He performs hearing preservation and revision surgery in adults and children. Dr. Ruffin is also a scientist and technology innovator in the field of hearing loss. He has designed new speech processing strategies for cochlear implants and also examined how people cognitively process speech and music with cochlear implants. Read more about his credentials and journey with hearing loss.
“I learned more about adapting to hearing loss from Dr. Ruffin than in my entire 20 years of living with it.”
Websites Relevant to Cochlear Implants
- Major CI manufacturers: Advanced Bionics, Cochlear, and MedEl.
- Cochlear Experiences Group is a very active Facebook support group of cochlear implant patients run by CI users. Please note that the medical information quoted is sometimes inaccurate. However, it is a great group for connecting with other CI users.
- South Sound Cochlear Implant Support Group meets bimonthly in Tacoma.
- American Cochlear Implant Alliance