List of Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implants

Hearing loss is one of the most difficult disabilities that many people face. Hearing loss comes from many forms, either from birth defects, loud noises that damage the ear drum, or from accidents and illnesses. Many people who suffer from hearing loss are looking for ways to improve their hearing, and often turn to hearing aids and hearing devices to aid in normal hearing functions. One of the most popular sought after treatments for hearing loss is the cochlear implant.

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted within the ear and the ear canal that helps the ear register sounds for people with severe or worsening hearing loss. The implant essentially replaces the function of the hair cells in the inner ear. These little hairs help you register sound and when damaged, aren’t able to register sound vibrations as well or at all. While a cochlear implant cannot give you 100% hearing, it is able to give you enough that you are able to hear and understand most sounds and can communicate better with other people.

Pros of Cochlear Implants

1. Relief from Hearing Loss
The first thing that you should know is that age factors heavily into whether or not you would be a good candidate for getting this kind of implant. Your doctor will take into consideration your age, overall health and any current or reoccurring health issues that you have, the cause and the amount of hearing loss, and other medical information. Candidates usually have severe hearing loss in both ears (though just one will not disqualify you), are not getting help or relief of hearing loss with other kinds of hearing devices, understand that it might not work for them and understand risks of surgery, and understand that results will vary with this kind of treatment.

2. Regain Hearing
The main pro of getting a cochlear implant is that you have an excellent chance of regaining some (if not all) of your hearing. It will enable you to communicate better, have a more functional life, and can enable you to have a fuller life. It will also save on the need to learn sign language and lip reading, as well as depending on others for hearing help.

3. More Opportunities
Another great advantage to having cochlear implants is that, for younger people who receive it, it can help them in school and in social groups, as well as broaden their prospective aspects for a career choice. While they may still be limited, the limitation won’t be as severe or as hindering as if they had no hearing choices available to them.

4. Safer
Being able to hear with a cochlear implant will also be safer for those who receive the implant. Being able to hear will allow them to be more aware of dangerous situations and hear impending danger situations (such as on a construction site, car accident, etc.). Hearing in general allows for a more fulfilling life and being able to enjoy moments in life.

Cons of Cochlear Implants

1. Complications and Surgical Risks
Cochlear implants require a surgical insertion. Surgery in and of itself always runs risks, however if you have any medical conditions prior to surgery, they may hinder healing or cause more complications. Always talk to your doctor regarding past and current health concerns. Surgery can also result in muscle spasms, numbness of the surgical site, and occasional facial numbness or minor facial paralysis.

2. Electronic Conversion
Older adults who receive the implant might have temporary or permanent electronic conversion complications in the brain (these are not painful). Electronic signals might not register fully and some speech hindrance or hearing hindrance may occur, however, children rarely have this complication.

3. Physical Activity Limitations
People who receive the implant are also limited on some physical activities, including high contact sports, water sports or water recreation, and water related activities. Water exposure can damage the implant or cause complications with the implant. Always talk to your doctor before doing any activities in which the implant could get wet.

4. Costs
The costs associated with the cochlear implant surgery often run a high cost. Mots insurance companies do not cover much (if any) of the surgery as some insurances see this as a chosen surgery (similar to cosmetic surgery) and that it is a patients choice to opt for surgery. Insurance companies are often more willing to work with those who are children or are younger adults.

5. Required Maintenance
The cochlear implant does require maintenance. It often will require battery changing, replacement of wires, and remapping of the processor can often run at high costs. Being sure to take care of the implant and being aware of the environmental hazards can all save you on costs of replacement.

6. Repair or Replacement May Be Needed
Some people, unfortunately, will have surgical complications and the device may not work for them. The body may also reject the implant, which could require removal or further surgery. If the device fails, patients will experience the same level (if not higher level) of deafness or hearing loss until the device is replaced or repaired.

7. Irritation to Area
The implant device does take time getting used to. Some people complain of itchiness and dry irritated skin around the outer part of the device (consult with your doctor for skin care at the site). Other people have mentioned that certain clothing can also irritate the area (hoods, scarfs, hats, etc.).