Cochlear Implants for Children Who are Severely Deaf in both Ears
Children who were born deaf had no real hope until cochlear implants were invented. The first devices that were made commercially available offered only “Sound awareness”.
Considerable time has passed since then and our understanding has improved along with the sophistication that cochlear implant technology has now reached.
From a single electrode single channel device, cochlear implants are now multichannel multielectrode devices. These devices stimulate the nerve cells along the entire length of the cochlea. Thus, all frequencies in the cochlea are stimulated. This mimics the way sound is presented to the cochlear nerve endings. This enables the recipient of the cochlear implant to hear.
In children who are born deaf, the implant needs to be inserted into the cochlear by the age of 3 to receive the best benefit from the cochlear implant. This is because while the cochlear implant reproduces sound, the area in the brain responsible for processing the sound stimulus is at its maximum up to the age of 3 or 4 years of age. The center in the brain responsible for processing the sound stimulus converts it into speech understanding and interpretation of those sounds into contextual meaningful words, music etc for everyday usage.
The centre for the perception of sound is the first to develop in the foetus in the uterus and can be appreciated when the child moves in the uterus when startled when exposed to sound. Once the newborn matures so does the center in the brain responsible for processing and interpretation of sound stimulus. After the age of 4 it gradually fades and atrophies and after that at this time we are unable to revived it.
It is thus imperative to identify in a timely way if hearing loss (deafness) is present. Is hearing loss present? Then to what degree is hearing loss present and is it present in both ears must be determined. This is known as prelingual deafness. That is deafness without the previous ability to hear, understand and speak normally.
Cochlear implants when inserted (implanted) in a timely manner in children who are correctly identified as suffering from profound sensorineural (nerve) deafness benefit tremendously from Cochlear Implants. They develop like normal children. They are able to attend schools for children with normal hearing and fare just as well in all spheres of activity as their normal hearing contemporaries.
That is the miracle that cochlear implants confer upon these children.