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Pediatric Cochlear Implant (CI) Program Overview

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Summary

Hearing loss can undermine a child’s ability to learn to speak, or to understand what people are saying, which can set his development back by years. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically inserted into the inner ear and under the skin behind the ear.

Cochlear implants do not return normal hearing to deaf or severely hearing-impaired children. Rather, they provide a child with a "representation" of sounds so she is able to learn and understand speech.

As of December 2012, some 38,000 children in the U.S. have received an implant. An audiologist can help determine if your child will benefit from cochlear implants. 

Expanded Overview

In a normal ear, sound causes the eardrum and middle ear bones to vibrate. The inner ear (cochlea) converts these vibrations into electrical signals. Those signals travel to the brain via the auditory nerve. Because a deaf child's inner ear doesn't function, he/she is unable to process those signals.

Rather than using vibrations, cochlear implants stimulate the nerve using electricity. Simulated "sound" signals are then sent to the brain.   Cochlear implants work in much the same way a normal inner ear functions. They consist of four complex parts: 

  • A microphone to pick up sounds in the environment  
  • A speech processor to arrange those sounds into signals  
  • A transmitter that takes the signals and converts them to electronic impulses  
  • An electrode array that takes the impulses and sends them to different parts of the auditory nerve

General Criteria

  • Age 12 months or older
  • Lack of progress in auditory skill development
  • Little benefit from hearing aids
  • No medical contraindications
  • Severe to profound hearing loss in both ears

Our Program

This comprehensive evaluation includes hearing tests, communications skills tests, medical exams/evaluations, and other services such as a social work consultation to help determine if the child could benefit from cochlear implant surgery. It also involves a family consultation to discuss if the child is a candidate for a cochlear implant, review test results, and explain the potential benefits of having a cochlear implant.

Our team of professionals includes an otologist (ENT specialists), audiologist, speech-language pathologist, social worker, psychologist, nurse and program manager – aggregating their expertise for the benefit of severe to profoundly deaf patients

Research

The Dallas Cochlear Implant Program has some of the world's most widely recognized cochlear implant speech/language scientists working hard to understand how cochlear implants can be most effectively used to improve speech and language outcomes and quality of life.

The program is one of only five sites for the multi-institutional NIH funded study on the long-term outcomes of cochlear implantation. This study is one of the largest studies ever funded for this purpose. The Dallas Cochlear Implant Program is involved in helping understand, test and improve the design of cochlear implant electrodes and has been engaged with all cochlear implant manufacturers in this effort. It has also contributed many dozens of articles to the scientific literature on cochlear implantation in the last ten years.

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