cochlear N7 implant

When hearing aids are not enough!

You can treat severe to profound hearing losses successfully with hearing aids. However, there are people who have such damage to their hearing that speech nerves are unable to fire even when a hearing aid provides them with adequate amplification. And if your nerves aren’t firing then you won’t understand speech.

Generally speaking, if you understand less than half of spoken word you listen to under test conditions, even with quality, correctly chosen and fitted hearing aids, then implant technology is possibly your next step.

Implantation is also recommended for other types of hearing loss. Traditional hearing aids are not recommended, if hearing loss involves the middle ear, for medical reasons. For example chronically discharging ears or if you are born without an outer ear.   

‘But hang on’, you might say. ‘Implants are expensive. I can’t afford that!’

How much do hearing implants costs?

It is true that an implant and processor can cost up to $30,000. Any way you look at it it’s a lot of money. What you may not be aware of is that many basic private health insurance hospital policies will cover the implant and the processor as well as much, if not all of the surgery required.

Even if you do not have private health insurance then you may also be eligible to fitted through the public health system, however selection criteria is more stringent.

Best thing to do is to seek out an audiologist who will bulk-bill appointments and ‘mappings and who also work with ENT specialists who are willing to bulk-bill much of their cost. We find that in most cases our patients end up paying a few hundred dollars out of pocket rather than thousands.

So what kind of implants are available?

The cochlear implant, which you may be familiar with, was invented here in Australia. A cochlear works by implanting a tiny electrode in the inner ear. A sound processor (like a hearing aid) sits externally and signals for tiny electrical impulses to be sent along the implanted electrode to stimulate your hearing nerves.

bone conduction implant is the second type of implant and is suitable for people with outer or middle ear issues. A processor signals the bone anchored implant to vibrate, which sends sounds directly to your inner ear through the bones in your skull.

The final implant is a middle ear implant. This is similar to a bone conduction implant except instead of vibrating the skull, a small transducer is attached to the little bones within the middle ear (ossicles) and the implant stimulates those to create sounds.

Ongoing support

You need to be able to rely on ongoing support and expertise wherever you are, no matter which type of implant you get. Treating profound hearing loss with implants is an ongoing process working with your audiologist to retrain your brain to hear and decipher sounds again. It can also be stressful if you need to travel to another town to have implant surgery, so knowing your hearing loss team is nearby can be a great comfort.

A first step

If you are finding that hearing aids no longer work for you, make an appointment with Queensland Vestibular to determine what options are available for you. Then you can carefully consider those options in your own time.

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Image courtesy Cochlear Limited

34 thoughts on “When hearing aids are not enough!”

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