London Cochlear Implant Clinic

 

FAQ

Does speech sound robotic with a CI?
This is a common question and the quality of the sound depends on the implantee.  Often adults who have had normal hearing and have lost it describe the sound as robotic but this is usually only at the very beginning.  Quite soon the brain starts to interpret the sound as normal and the robotic quality disappears. 

Don’t you lose all your hearing if you have implant surgery?
It certainly used to be the case that having a cochlear implant meant that you had to sacrifice any residual (usually low frequency) hearing you had left in the operated ear.  This is not the case any more.  Many of the newer implants have very soft, atraumatic electrodes which can be inserted with minimal damage to the cochlea and hearing can be preserved.

When are you too old for a CI?
The good news is there is no upper age limit!  The team have implanted several individuals in their 90’s who are still getting significant benefit from their implants. It is also possible to do the surgery under local anaesthetic if general medical fitness is an issue.

What about wearing your hearing aid in the other ear after the implant operation?
In the early days of implantation patients were encouraged to throw away their hearing aids.  This was because it was felt that they would take longer to adapt to hearing with the implant if they were still hearing something in the other ear with their hearing aids.  This is no longer the case. The benefit of having auditory input from both ears is becoming increasingly understood and people in the bimodal state (hearing aid in one ear and CI in other ear) find listening in many situations easier with two ears

What about saving an ear for future technology?
Whilst on the face of it this seems a good idea if you see above (Who could benefit?) it is clear that the benefit derived from an implant is all about the brain and the crucial period of brain development in the first four years of life.  At the moment the only way to stimulate the auditory pathway in a profoundly deaf ear is via a cochlear implant.  If the auditory pathway is not stimulated it will not develop and there is no future technology that will be able to rewind the clock if this has not happened by the age of four.

What about device failure?
The implants we are putting today are incredibly reliable and are all guaranteed for ten years.  Many of them will go on working for considerably longer than this.  However failures do occur but in most cases replacement of a failed device is a straight forward procedure.  The external parts of the implant are always being updated and are always backwards compatible meaning that you can access any new developments by upgrading your processor.

What about a totally implantable CI?
This is the supposed “Holy Grail” of all manufacturers and although some prototypes have been implanted as part of ongoing trials there is nothing commercially available yet.  In addition one of the advantages of having an external component is that by upgrading it periodically you can access new speech processing strategies as they are brought out.  With a totally implantable device this would necessitate a surgical procedure to replace the whole device.