Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors
"Do I have to be a certain age to get cochlear implants?"
I have been deaf all my life and I am now 31. I would like to get cochlear implants installed but wonder if it's too late for me.
I am happy to give you some general information about cochlear implants, however I would definitely say that this is a conversation that you should have with your neurotologist or ENT (neurotology is a ENT aka Ears, Nose, throat fellowship where the physician specializes in only ear and skull base surgery). So speaking in general terms, a cochlear implant is a device that has 2 main parts. There is an implanted electrode that is placed into the cochlea and stimulates different areas within the cochlea selectively. This works to simulate sound, because the cochlea has a tonotopic organization (meaning that different frequencies of sound are detected in different locations). There is also the external processor that has a microphone that picks up the sound and sends it to the internal electrode in the form of an electrical impulse. In order for a cochlear implat to work, the cochlea must function ok, and everything downstream must be intact. Meaning that the nerve connections between the cochlea and brain must be fine. So as part of your consultation with an otologist/ENT, they will order some test to determine this. The patients that generally do the best with cochlear implants are those who have been hearing previously then lost their hearing for some reason. The theory is that the auditory pathways in the brain have already been developed. That doesn't mean however that they can't be effective in those patients who were born deaf. Thus I would recommend you discuss this with your otologist/ENT. Best of luck and I hope this helps.
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