The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Prince of Wales Hospital have formed a Cochlear Implant Team that includes ear, nose and throat specialists, audiologists, speech therapists, paediatric psychiatrists and social workers

What is Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is an electronic device comprised of 'an implanted part' and 'an external component'. 'The implanted part' is made up of a receiver/stimulator and a filament which can produce a multi-channel electrode array to stimulate the auditory nerve (to be implanted into the cochlear). 'The external component' consists of a transmitting coil, a microphone and a speech processor. Audiologists will programme the speech processor to suit the need of each CI user.

The structure and mechanism of the cochlear implant are more complex than a conventional hearing aid. It brings a greater awareness to a broader range of sounds. Although the cochlear implant cannot restore damaged auditory nerves or hearing, it improves sound reception and speech perception with the sophisticated device and post-operative training.

Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?

When conventional hearing aids cannot help patients with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss to improve their hearing and communication ability, they may consider the option of cochlear implantation. In general, the shorter the period of hearing loss, the better the outcome will be. This period is especially crucial for children, as infancy is the prime time for developing speech and communication skills. Delay in treatment will hinder rehabilitative training and badly affect surgery outcomes.

General criteria for the cochlear implant :
1. bilateral severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss
2. aged 12 months or above
3. inability to recognize speech through conventional hearing aids or other hearing device
4. no contraindications to implant surgery
5. a strong wish to improve hearing with appropriate understanding and expectations of the results of surgery
6. a high degree of commitment and appropriate expectation of the surgery outcome and rehabilitative training
7. for children, a comprehensive educational facility and programme that emphasize development of their auditory skills