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cochlear implant

Tuesday 18 October 2011


Definition: A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing. The cochlear implant is often referred to as a "bionic ear".

As of April 2009, approximately 188,000 people worldwide had received cochlear implants; in the United States, about 40,000 adults and over 30,000 children are recipients.

The vast majority are in developed countries due to the high cost of the device, surgery and post-implantation therapy. A small but growing segment of recipients have bilateral implants (one implant in each cochlea).

Cochlear implants can restore hearing in patients suffering deafness due to loss of sensory hair cells in their cochlea. In those patients, they can often restore sufficient hearing to allow unaided understanding of speech in a quiet background, but the restored, electrical hearing is much less rich than natural hearing, and offers only very limited appreciation of musical melody, or speech understanding in noisy environments.


In the United States, medical costs run from US$45,000 to US$125,000; this includes evaluation, the surgery itself, hardware (device), hospitalization and rehabilitation. Some or all of this may be covered by health insurance. According to the US National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the estimated total cost is $60,000 per person implanted.

A study by Johns Hopkins University determined that for a three-year-old child who receives cochlear implants can save $30,000 to $50,000 in special-education costs for elementary and secondary schools as they are more likely to be mainstreamed in school and thus use fewer support services than similarly deaf children.

In the United Kingdom, the NHS covers cochlear implants in full, as does Medicare in Australia, Seguridad Social in Spain and Israel.

See also

- bionics
- biomaterials