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When Hearing Aids Are Not Enough: Cochlear Implant Candidacy


Most of the patients with hearing loss that present to our clinic are helped quite successfully with hearing aids.  Sometimes, however, a patient may present with such severe or profound hearing loss that even the most powerful hearing aids on the market today may not provide sufficient benefit.  

Although hearing aids (HAs) and cochlear implants (CIs) both provide better hearing, there is a significant difference between them.  HAs are programmed to provide amplification of sound at different frequencies based on the hearing loss at each frequency.  Sound is still delivered to the damaged hair cells of the inner ear and/or the damaged auditory nerve.  In the case of severe or profound hearing loss, the damage to the inner ear is so significant that even with powerful amplification, sound is distorted and of limited benefit.  Consequently, the person with severe-to-profound hearing loss may not hear very much even with hearing aids, and becomes tired easily due to the great effort required to make sense of sound. 

A cochlear implant bypasses the damaged hair cells of the inner ear by delivering electrical current directly to the cochlear, or auditory, nerve. A cochlear implant presents a wide range of frequencies, regardless of the pre-implantation hearing loss.  For individuals with better low-frequency hearing but profound mid-or high-frequency hearing loss, a hybrid CI combining acoustic amplification for the low-frequencies with electric stimulation for the high-frequencies may provide the best result. 

Adults must meet the following criteria to be considered for CI surgery: 

  • Age 18 or older
  • Moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • Limited benefit from amplification defined by preoperative test scores of ≤ 50% sentence recognition in the ear to be implanted and ≤60% in the opposite ear or binaurally

Baylor College of Medicine, located in the Texas Medical Center, will be hosting an informational seminar for CI recipients and candidates on Wednesday, October 25, 2017 from 5:30-7:30 pm.  Location: McNair Campus, Bobby R. Alford Educational Center, 1st Floor, 7200 Cambridge St., Houston, TX 77030.  Interested parties should RSVP to [email protected]