Disability Focus: Cochlear Implants

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

We see lots of assistive technology in our work here at Champions, but perhaps one of the most interesting implementations of technology to assist people with disabilities are cochlear implants. For those not in the know, a cochlear implant is an electronic device which can provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or hard of hearing. 

Pictured right, the device consists of both external and internal components. The external components include a microphone, sound processor and transmitter. These parts gather sounds and information which is then sent to the internal component, the implanted electrode array, which communicates with the users auditory nerve - allowing them to hear.

So what does a person with a cochlear implant hear? First off, it is important to note that a cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. In this sense, it is not a "cure" for deafness. A cochlear implant provides useful representations of sounds in the environment, which can help a person understand speech. This is markedly different from a hearing aid, which simply amplifies sound. 

When a person receives a cochlear implant they will undergo listening therapy to learn or relearn what they are now hearing. Making sense and proper associations of the sounds takes time and each person experiences a different learning curve with the device. Over time, people with cochlear implants generally understand more speech than they did with just hearing aids and can sometimes learn to speak on the phone or listen to music.

Want to learn more about cochlear implants? Look at this article for more basic information or this one which debunks many myths which surround cochlear implants. For a more personal touch, check out the Adventures of a Deaf Adult blog which is currently chronicling life after receiving an implant.

Come back tomorrow when we will talk about cochlear implants in the workplace!


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