Cochlear Implant

Transforms Chicago Heights Patient’s Life

While hearing aids work for most people with hearing loss, for some individuals, a cochlear implant is the best option.

“A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear,” explains ear, nose and throat specialist and head/neck surgeon Francis Hobson, MD. “Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants do the work of the damaged part of the inner ear or cochlea to provide sound signals to the brain.”

For 73-year-old Donna Counihan of Chicago Heights, the device has been nothing short of a miracle. Donna, who has struggled with progressive hearing loss for the past decade, underwent the very first cochlear implant procedure at Ingalls. Following a short recovery, Donna says her life has been transformed.

“I’m hearing sounds that I never heard before,” the grandmother of three explains. “I can hear the TV, I can hear the radio in the car, I can hear what my grandkids are saying. It’s amazing!”

A sound processor worn behind the ear or on the body captures sound and turns it into digital code, and transmits it through the coil on the outside of the wearer’s head to the implant. The implant converts the code into electrical impulses, and sends them along the electrode array placed on the inner ear or cochlea, which then sends the impulses to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.

Dr. Hobson places cochlear implants during an outpatient surgical procedure at the hospital. About two weeks after the implant is placed and the area has healed, patients receive rehabilitation at the Ingalls Audiology Center to learn how to interpret the new sounds.

Cochlear implants can help people who have moderate to profound hearing loss in one or both ears, and who score 65 percent or less on sentence recognition tests done by a hearing professional in the affected ear. One study showed that people with cochlear implants achieve an average of 80 percent sentence understanding compared to 10 percent with a traditional hearing aid.

Cochlears also help the wearer focus in noisy environments; hear sounds they couldn’t hear before the implant; feel safer, since they can hear alarms, people calling out and approaching vehicles; talk on the phone; and listen to music.

“Don’t put it off,” Donna advises. “The cochlear is wonderful!” Dr. Hobson offers convenient locations in Flossmoor and Tinley Park.

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