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Resources for Parents

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Cochlear Implants & Hearing Aids

Cochlear Implants

The organ of hearing is pea-sized structure in the inner ear called the cochlea. Tiny, delicate nerve cells in the cochlea communicate sound signals to the brain, allowing a person to hear different sounds. If these delicate cells are damaged, or missing, the result is a hearing loss.

Cochlear implants provide children with profound, total and sometimes severe hearing losses with greater auditory access to speech than a hearing aid. The device consists of two parts: an internal device that has electrodes that are surgically implanted in the cochlea; and, an external device that contains a microphone, wire, magnet and a processor that is worn on the outside of the head or body.  A cochlear implant works to bypass the damaged part of the ear and sends sound signals directly to the auditory nerve.

An implant does not restore or create normal hearing, but it can give a deaf or hard of hearing person access to sound, particularly the sounds of speech. By working closely with audiologists, speech language pathologists and experienced educators, children with cochlear implants learn to maximize this access to sound to develop a full range of listening, language and speaking skills.

There are now more than 60,000 recipients worldwide, both children and adults, who have cochlear implants.

Hearing Aids

When a child with hearing loss still has some access to sound through their cochlea, hearing aids may be used to maximize that access. A hearing aid is an electronic, battery-operated device that amplifies sound to improve listening comprehension. It collects sounds from the environment via a microphone, amplifies those sounds and then directs the amplified signal into the user's ear through a tiny speaker.

It is important to provide infants who are deaf and hard of hearing with hearing aids as early as possible, ideally within 1 - 2 months of age, to maximize the early growth of the auditory brain that happens in response to stimulation from the environment. Finding the correct hearing aid for a baby with hearing loss is an important step.  Children are typically fit with a type of hearing aid known as a behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid.  Today’s technology enables hearing health professionals to fit even very young babies with hearing aids that meet their needs