ECHO staff brings many years of experience to cochlear implant candidates and their families. In 1987, Michael Novak, MD, was the first surgeon in Illinois to perform pediatric cochlear implant surgery, and the ECHO program was involved in the initial FDA trials that demonstrated the safety and benefits of cochlear implantation in children.
The cochlear implant team partners with the family to determine if the cochlear implant is the best treatment, and continues to work with the family to maximize speech language and auditory outcomes.
How it Works
The cochlear implant consists of two components: the internal receiver/stimulator and the external speech processor. The receiver/stimulator is implanted under the skin behind the ear, with an electrode array surgically inserted into the cochlea. The speech processor, worn over the ear, is a small microcomputer that receives sound from a microphone and transmits the signal to the receiver/stimulator. The auditory nerve in the cochlea receives the signal and sends it to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
Because a cochlear implant uses an entirely different signal than normal hearing or hearing aids, parents must be committed to teaching their child to listen with this device.
The cochlear implant team includes Dr. Novak and Dr. Porter, audiologists, speech language pathologists, developmental specialists and educators of the hearing impaired child.
The evaluation consists of:
- Audiological evaluation to determine the child's hearing loss. Testing is done with hearing aids to determine if they are fit appropriately and providing adequate benefit.
- Speech and language evaluation that may include a series of diagnostic therapy appointments to determine how hearing aid use has impacted the child's speech and language development.
- Medical evaluation which may include CT and/or MRI scans of the cochlea.
Cochlear implants generally work best for children with:
- Severe to profound hearing loss in both ears
- Limited or no benefit from hearing aids
- Support from parents, caregivers, teachers and school programs to help develop hearing skills specific to the cochlear implant
- Access to intensive speech therapy and academic programs that support development of listening skills
The cochlear implant is an outpatient procedure that typically takes one to two hours. Pre-operative procedures and risks associated with the surgery are discussed by the surgeon with the family prior to surgery.