Happy Anniversary: Pediatric Cochlear Implants reach 30

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A cochlear implant is a medical device that transmits sound past the hair cells of the ear, which may be damaged. The implant replaces the cochlea, a pea-sized structure in the ear that is responsible for sending “sounds” to the brain. The cochlea has hair-like fibers that filter sounds to differentiate between the pitches and rhythms of sound. The implant helps those with sensorineural hearing loss.

The actual implant has not much changed over the past 30 years. The external portions of the device, namely the receiver and microphones, have seen changes. The device was designed to accept new programming so that it could last a lifetime.

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In July of 1980, the FDA approved the first pediatric, single-channel cochlear implant. In 2000, the agency approved implants for children at 12 months of age. Research has shown that the earlier the implant, the better the prognosis for speech and hearing related issues. By making the wire thinner, device makers can put more electrodes on the wire, which will improve the quality of sound.

In June 2010, researchers announced that a new device design could improve prognoses even more. The device would have more electrodes and have a thinner, more flexible wire and be inserted further into the inner ear. These results were presented at the 11th International Conference on Cochlear Implants and Other Auditory Implantable Technology, in Sweden from June 30 to July 3rd .

Jace Wolfe, Ph.D. of Oklahoma City’s Hearts for Hearing Foundation, co-authored the book, “Programming Cochlear Implants” where various cochlear implants are compared and discussed for parents, doctors or anyone else considering cochlear implants. Readers can click here for more information on the book

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