About Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants (CI) are the most successful medical intervention for those profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. A small, complex electronic device, a cochlear implant does not amplify sound like a conventional hearing aid. Instead, it bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear and delivers electrical impulses to the auditory nerve which, in turn, sends information to the brain.
Current technology uses a microphone and speech processor worn outside of the ear to collect sound and speech information. The device looks much like a conventional hearing aid. The processor collects sound information and sends it to the surgically implanted device, which then sends the signal to the brain via the auditory nerve.
While a CI does not restore normal hearing, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment and help them understand speech. Cochlear implants, coupled with intensive post-op therapy, can help young children to acquire speech, language, and social skills. Adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life often can benefit from cochlear implants as they learn to associate the signal provided by an implant with sounds they remember.
The cost of a cochlear implant ranges from $50,000 to $100,000. A candidate must first go through a detailed evaluation phase to determine if they will benefit from a CI. Once qualified, there are the actual surgical and hospital costs. There is an intensive post-operative therapy phase as the patient is taught how to interpret the signals from the CI as sound. And there are costs with maintaining the device. Although cochlear implants are covered by a number of insurance plans including Medicare and Medicaid, out-of-pocket costs vary widely. Increasingly, insurance companies are placing CI exclusions in their policies.