There are over 500,000 infants, children, and adults in the United States with severe-to-profound hearing loss. Hearing impairment is one of the most common birth defects in the country.
Cochlear implants are the most successful medical intervention for those profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. A small, complex electronic device, a CI does not amplify sound like a conventional hearing aid. Instead, it bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear and delivers electrical impulses to the auditory nerve.
Current technology uses a microphone and speech processor worn outside of the ear, resembling a conventional hearing aid. The processor collects sound information and sends it to the surgically implanted device, which then delivers the signal to the brain via the auditory nerve.
While a CI does not restore normal hearing, it can give a deaf person a useful representation of sounds in the environment, including speech. Cochlear implants, coupled with post-operative therapy, can help young children to acquire speech and to function in the auditory world. Adults who have lost all or most of their hearing often can also benefit from cochlear implants, as they learn to associate the signal provided by an implant with sounds they remember.
The cost of a cochlear implant ranges from $75,000 to $125,000. Candidates must first go through a detailed evaluation phase to determine if they will benefit from a CI. Once qualified, there are the actual surgical and hospital costs. There is an intensive post-operative therapy phase, as the recipient learns how to interpret the signals from the CI as sound. Afterward, there are periodic maintenance costs.
Although cochlear implants are covered by a number of insurance plans including Medicare and Medicaid, out-of-pocket costs vary widely. Increasingly, insurance companies are placing CI exclusions in their policies.
Gradually growing deaf by age 10, Jacob received a cochlear implant from the Johns Hopkins Listening Center, allowing him to be fully functional in the hearing world. Providing a comprehensive approach to cochlear implantation, it is one of the largest cochlear implant programs across the nation. Their goal is to bring meaningful sound to the lives of individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing through a partnership of medicine, research, technology, rehabilitation and advocacy.
For more details on cochlear implants, you can also visit Advanced Bionics, a major sponsor of Jacob's Ride.