Health Watch -- Listen Up: Cochlear Implants

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications  and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

This week on Health Watch, we’re talking about hearing. When ears don’t work properly, technology can sometimes make up for the hearing loss. A hearing aid amplifies sounds, but doesn’t help when deafness is caused by problems with the auditory nerve. A cochlear implant may help in those cases. The implant mimics the way the ear translates sound waves into electrical waves that can be interpreted by the brain.

Dr. Ann Geers, an ear, nose and throat specialist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the earlier a deaf child receives an implant, the better the results. Children who had implants the longest had the best speech and vocabulary skills at the age of three. Getting the implants so early in life allows these children to learn language the way other children do, by listening to people around them talking. The implants can also be successful for people who lost their hearing after learning to talk.


November 2006

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