How Does Hearing Work?
Before you can fully understand how cochlear implants work, it's helpful to first have a basic understanding of how normal hearing works:
1) The outer ear collects sound waves that pass through the air.
2) The sound waves vibrate the eardrum and the three tiny bones (hammer, anvil, and stirrup) in the middle ear.
3) This vibration moves the tiny hairs of the sensory cells in the inner ear or cochlear; sensory cells convert the vibrations to an electrical signal that is sent to the hearing nerve.
4) The signal travels up the nerve and into the brain, where it is interpreted as sound.
When any part of this delicate system is damaged, hearing loss can result. For adults, hearing loss, whether sudden or progressive, can cause frustration, isolation, even depression. It can do the same to a child, as well as impact the ability to learn and speak, causing the child to fall behind in his or her development. But for people of all ages, cochlear implants may help end the isolation from hearing loss by bringing the world of sound back into his or her life.
What Is a Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that allows many people who’ve experienced hearing loss to hear better once again. And for many who’ve never heard sound before, they experience hearing for the very first time. It’s a completely different, more advanced device than a hearing aid, which merely amplifies sound to make it loud enough for an impaired ear to hear.
How Does a Cochlear Implant Work?
Using state-of-the-art technology, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of an ear and sends electrical signals directly to the brain via the hearing nerve where they’re interpreted as sound.
1) Sound is captured by a microphone on the sound processor (worn on the outer ear).
2) The sound processor converts sounds into detailed digital information.
3) The magnetic headpiece sends the digital signals to the implant.
4) The electrode array on the implant sends electrical signals to the hearing nerve.
5) The hearing nerve sends impulses to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.
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