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Cochlear implants help those with hearing problems turn up the volume

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A cochlear implant is an electronic hearing device designed to produce useful hearing sensations to a person with severe to profound nerve deafness by electrically stimulating the nerves inside the inner ear, according to information from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“It’s not hearing as you and I would think about it. When a person first hears with a cochlear implant, it sounds distorted. But with practice and training, they can perform quite well and be able to listen to conversation in a normal tone of voice, listen to the radio or TV and speak on the telephone,” said Dr. Brian J. McKinnon, assistant professor of otology/neurotology at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

The implant consists of two main components: a sound processor, microphone and transmitter system worn externally on the flat area of the head behind the ear, and very small electronic circuits, slightly larger than a human hair, that are surgically placed inside the cochlea. A magnet holds the external system in place next to the implanted internal system.

Carrie Welter, who has had an implant for three years, said hearing does not take place immediately after surgery because it takes the cochlea a few weeks to heal, and the processor is not wired onto the transmitter until after the healing is complete.

“I dreaded that time while I waited,” Welter said. “I had this scar that I thought was really gross on the side of my head. But a friend brought me a cap to wear to cover it up.”

Welter said she will never forget when her implant was activated by the audiologist, who tested each of the 18 electrodes one at a time.

“I could hear each one as she did it, and it was very awesome. It became an awesome day,” she said, adding that she has to visit the doctor every two months for a regular check up on the implant. “But it’s such a wonderful blessing; I should’ve done it 10 years ago.”

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Carrie Welter
Carrie Welter 11/13/11 - 08:36 pm
Lynn Davidson did a great job

Lynn Davidson did a great job on this article. Thanks Lynn. Zach Boyden-Holmes is a great photographer, also.

wgeitgey 11/13/11 - 10:34 pm
I just had surgery for a

I just had surgery for a Cochlear implant at MCG on Nov 3rd with Dr. McKinnon. MCG has an amazing team to bring it all together. After my wife and I removed the bandages two days later, I had half a head of hair and this brand new work of art on the left side of my head. Being a guy at 63 not much of that bothered me other than I looked lop sided. So we took off some more. The Mohawk lasted about 5 minutes then off came the rest of my hair. I have not been cut that short since my father used to cut it and I was 5. My wife still giggles when she sees me. As for the scar, I have found that everything heals faster out in the open so no cap for me. People don't even pay much attention to it. My device will go live around the end of the month and I cannot wait.
I was asked if I was nervous about having the surgery. My reply was not at all. I have not had a moment of concern or doubt. I have prayed all through this process to know if it was the right thing to do. My answer from God was a calm and peaceful reassurance that all would be well and to go ahead with it. If you are having hearing problems check them out early. Don't wait. The sooner you do something about it the better your opportunities. It was not until my doctor recommended that I go and see Dr. McKinnon that I learned that these implants were available.

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