September 11: Implant success dependent on duration of deafness

Science Snapshot

Tavora-Vieira, et al., Successful outcomes of cochlear implantation in long-term unilateral deafness: brain plasticity? Neuroreport, 2013, 24 (13): p. 724-9

Cochlear implants were first approved by the FDA in 1984, but since then the technology has come a long way. Now over 100,000 people (primarily in developed countries, due to the high cost) have cochlear implants, some with one for each ear. The implant restores hearing by consisting of a system with a microphone to pick up surrounding sound external to the ear, and an internal implant which translates the sound signal into electric impulses which are transmitted to sections of the scala tympani. There are 3 main variables, the microphone quality, the algorithm that converts the sound into impulses, and the number and connection of the electrodes.

For a long time it was considered easier to restore hearing to patients who had only recently become deaf. Tavora-Vieira et al. challenged…

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