Question: My mother was approved through her insurance for cochlear implants, but she decided against it because she didn’t want to destroy what hearing she has, which isn’t much. Could she be a candidate for something else that would not completely destroy her hearing? Are there any cochlear implantation alternatives available? She is hoping for maybe something else like stem cell advances. Is there any hope for her? My mother is 76 years old.
Your mother’s question is quite common. It is a bit misunderstood that hearing is “destroyed” from cochlear implants or cochlear implantation. We always aim to preserve residual hearing during surgery, but it really is of little benefit. While it is true that standard hearing aids will not benefit her after implantation, the implant will give her far more benefit than her hearing aids do. When it comes to cochlear implants, often adults benefit immediately and continue to improve for roughly three months after their initial tuning session. Most people with implants can perceive soft, medium, and loud sounds. Allowing them to hear common everyday sounds, such as the sound of a light switch, a door slamming shut, footsteps, and the rustling of leaves. Many people with cochlear implants can regain the ability to make telephone calls, listen to music, understand speech, as well as the ability to watch and hear the television.
However, it is important to realize that improvements can be gradual. A user’s performance can continue to improve for several years after implantation. Nonetheless, when it comes to cochlear implants, the benefits far outweigh the risks in regards to a patient who may lose any remaining hearing in the implanted ear. In other words, nobody ever complains about this after the implant. Any worries quickly vanish once the implant is activated.
Thank you for your question
Neil Sperling MD
New York Otolaryngology Group