Hearing Loss

Cochlear Implants and Assistive Devices

Cochlear Implants

If your hearing loss is severe and of a certain type, your doctor may suggest that you talk to an otolaryngologist—a doctor who specializes in the medical and surgical treatment of ear, nose, and throat diseases—about a cochlear implant.

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that the surgeon places under the skin and behind the ear. The device picks up sounds, changes them to electrical signals, and sends them past the non-working part of the inner ear and on to the brain.

A cochlear implant does not restore or create normal hearing. Instead, it can help people who are deaf or who have a severe hearing loss be more aware of their surroundings and understand speech, sometimes well enough to use the telephone.

Some adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life can also benefit from cochlear implants. They learn to associate the signals from the implant with sounds they remember, including speech, without requiring any visual cues such as those provided by lip reading or sign language.

Learning to interpret sounds from the implant takes time and practice. A speech-language pathologist and audiologist can help you with this part of the process.

Learn more about cochlear implants.

Assistive Devices

Assistive listening devices (ALDs) help amplify the sounds you want to hear, especially where there’s a lot of background noise. Hearing assistive devices are useful in large gatherings or smaller settings. Some are designed for large facilities, such as classrooms, theaters, places of worship, and airports. Other types are intended for personal use in small settings and for one-on-one conversations.

These devices help to amplify sounds and can be used with or without a hearing aid or cochlear implant. Some hearing aids can be plugged into TVs, stereos, microphones, and personal FM systems to help you hear better.

Learn more about the different types of assistive technologies.

Alerting devices can give you a signal that you can see or a vibration that you can hear. Visual alert signalers monitor a variety of household devices and other sounds, such as doorbells and telephones. When the phone rings, the visual alert signaler will be activated and will vibrate or flash a light to let people know.

Learn more about alerting devices.

The Telecoil

Some hearing aids may have certain added features installed, such as a telecoil. A telecoil is a small magnetic coil that allows users to receive sound through the circuitry of the hearing aid, rather than through its microphone. This makes it easier to hear conversations over the telephone. A telecoil also helps people hear in public facilities that have installed special sound systems, called hearing loop systems. Hearing loop systems can be found in many churches, schools, airports, and auditoriums.

Learn more about research being conducted on assistive devices.