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November 30, 2021

A great article by Dr. Meredith Holcomb, Director Hearing Implant Program at University of Miami and Dr. Daniel Zeitler a cochlear implant surgeon at The Listen for Life Center at Virginia Mason in Seattle, WA discussing the most common myths surrounding cochlear implantation. Here are some of the highlights from this article:

Cochlear implants (CIs) are safe and beneficial technology that has proven to help patients who cannot benefit from hearing aids to improve their hearing and thus their ability to communicate. However, often patients are hesitant to pursue cochlear implants because of misunderstanding or misinformation. These are the 5 common myths surrounding cochlear implants and the truths related to them:

Myth 1: Insurance will not cover cochlear implant surgery.

In fact, more than 90 percent of commercial health plans do have coverage benefits for CI surgery and related services. Medicare, TRICARE, the Veteran’s Administration, and Medicaid also provide coverage.

Myth 2: CI surgery requires complicated brain surgery.

CI surgery does not involve the brain. The surgeon will make a small incision behind the ear for the stimulator beneath the skin. To insert the electrode into the cochlea, the surgeon will drill the bone behind the ear. Your surgical team will walk you through the risks and benefits of CI surgery.

Myth 3: Only patients with profound hearing loss can get CIs.

This has changed over the decades and now patients with hearing loss in one ear, asymmetrical hearing loss, and those with some normal hearing in the lower tones can also get CIs. A patient may also benefit from having a CI on the poorer ear and a hearing aid in the better ear. If you are unable to benefit from hearing aids, talk to your audiologist about a CI evaluation.

Myth 4: CIs restore hearing to “normal”.

CI recipients will not have “normal” hearing, but they will benefit in terms of audibility, speech understanding in quiet and noise, and have improved quality of life. Patients using a CI can still have trouble with speech understanding since they typically remain with the equivalent of a mild hearing loss. However, there is technology like remote microphones to help CI patients in complex, noisy situations.

Myth 5: I am too old to get a cochlear implant.

There is no upper age limit for cochlear implantation and multiple studies have shown that surgery is safe. The 80-year-old and older population has an average life expectancy that continues to rise. About 80% of this population has hearing loss and some would benefit from a CI.

Many more myths exist regarding cochlear implants, but the fact is that a patient who is not benefiting from properly fit hearing aids might be a good CI candidate. Cochlear implantation is a journey that will require active involvement from the patient, their family, and a CI team.

Learn more about the cochlear implant assessment