What is a cochlear implant?

December 9, 2015 by Nicolas Rouleau

Qu’est-ce qu’un implant cochléaire?

Viewed as one of the great technological breakthroughs of the 20th century, the cochlear implant is the first electronic device to replace a sensory organ.

The patient receives the implant during a two-hour surgery carried out by an ENT (ear-nose-throat) surgeon, who inserts electrodes into the patient’s inner ear, specifically the cochlea (the organ where the inner hair cells are located). These electrodes take over for damaged or missing hearing cells—the cause of the hearing loss—and send auditory information to the auditory nerve. The cochlear implant inside the ear communicates with an external speech processor via an antenna held in place on the head with a magnet. The speech processor is comprised of a microcomputer and a microphone that both rest on the ear.

implant cochléaire

Following the surgery and four-week convalescence period, the patient meets with an audiologist to adjust each electrode and program the microcomputer. Then the patient completes a two-month rehabilitation program with an audiologist to learn how to hear and, ultimately, how to understand again.

This type of surgery is carried out at the cochlear implant expertise center (Centre québécois d’expertise en implant cochléaire) at the Quebec City university medical center (Hôtel-Dieu de Québec), which boasts a team of three overspecialized ENT surgeons, audiologists, speech-language pathologists, psychologists, specialized educators, and a social worker. Implant candidates are referred by hearing health professionals for assessment. To date, close to 2,000 surgeries have been completed in Quebec, and about 185 surgeries are scheduled each year. This world-renowned program, created by ENT
Dr. Pierre Ferron, turns 30 this year.

For more details, visit
implantcochleaire.ca (in French only) or dial
418-691-5420.

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