A cochlear implant is a surgically-implanted devise that helps produce a sense of hearing for people who have suffered severe hearing loss or total deafness. Much of modern medicine is wrought with side effects and pros and cons and the cochlear implant is not immune.
Cochlear implants can restore the ability to perceive sounds and volume and many people even gain the ability to understand speech. However, the negative side effects of cochlear implants can be serious with risks including meningitis, facial nerve injury, and vertigo.
Cochlear implants utilize two components: one implanted into the inner ear and a second external component. They are available to people who either have severe hearing problems or are completely deaf. According to the Mayo Clinic, issues and conditions that can be treated by cochlear implants include various types of hearing loss, auditory neuropathy, meningitis, otosclerosis, acoustic neuroma, and malformations of the ear.
Responses to the surgery vary greatly with some patients experiencing impressive benefits from cochlear implants. Many adults recognize significant immediate improvements in hearing and they usually continue to improve steadily for a few months after surgery.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the primary benefit of cochlear implants is an improved ability to discern speech through lip reading. In highly successful cases, benefits of cochlear implants can include the ability to recognize volume and some can even interpret speech by sound alone.
Cochlear implant surgery is risky. Negative side effects of cochlear implants are wide-ranging and sometimes serious. The cons of cochlear implants can spring from the surgical procedure or the implant itself. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, surgical risks of cochlear implants include an injury to the facial nerve, an infection at the point of incision, tinnitus, vertigo, an injury to a nerve involved in the sense of taste, and in worst case scenarios a life-threatening meningitis infection.
Once in place, further side effects of cochlear implants can materialize. According to the FDA, in some cases, cochlear implants can impair a person's existing hearing ability. The implant itself may fail and it is susceptible to damage from impact, accident, or injury, thereby exposing the patient to further surgery. Rarely, an infection can develop requiring the implant to be removed.
The pros and cons of cochlear implants should always be discussed with the doctor before a decision is made. The potential benefits of cochlear implants vary greatly and often depend upon the extent of hearing loss and the underlying cause of hearing loss.
While a cochlear implant can yield substantial hearing improvements, it is a procedure that comes with significant and wide-ranging risks that sometimes outweigh the potential gains.