SILVER SPRING, Md., Nov. 10, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Your elderly uncle is hard of hearing and has a difficult time understanding conversation—so much so that he's feeling frustrated and left out. His hearing aids aren't helping much.
Your one-year-old daughter was diagnosed with severe hearing loss in both ears, and you're worried about her ability to learn and understand speech. How will she learn to communicate? For both of these cases, a cochlear implant may be an option. What are cochlear implants? Who uses them and why? And how does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) play a role? The cochlea is the part of the inner ear that contains the endings of the nerve which carries sound to the brain. A cochlear implant is a small, electronic device that when surgically placed under the skin, stimulates the nerve endings in the cochlea to provide a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. "A severe to profound hearing loss in both ears prevents a person from understanding speech and communicating in everyday conversations. Cochlear implants can increase hearing and communication abilities for people who don't receive enough benefit from traditional hearing aids," says Srinivas Nandkumar, Ph.D., chief of the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) Devices Branch at FDA. How Does It Work? A cochlear implant consists of an external part that sits behind the ear and an internal part that is surgically placed under the skin. Usually, a magnet holds the external system in place next to the implanted internal system. The FDA has approved cochlear implants for use by individuals aged one year and older.