How Much Does a Cochlear Implant Cost?

Blue Angels rechargeable hearing aids are modern miracles of technology. They capture sounds ‘floating in the air’ and improve their quality for our customers. Although from nature’s perspective, sounds are vibrations our brains interpret so we can understand.

Our hearing is a delicate system beyond the skills of gifted surgeons to repair. Until quite recently, sign language was the only option for profoundly deaf people beyond the reach of hearing aids. Cochlear implants changed that reality by tackling the problem a different way.

Sound Conduction 101: How Hearing Works

Hearing aids can’t repair our hearing, but they are often sufficient for most people. They work with what we have, and improve our experience by enhancing the quality of what we hear. Their output travels down our ear canals to our ear drums, which vibrate from the impulses.

Tiny mechanisms in our inner ears process this information and turn it into electrochemical signals our brains can understand. Then they transmit these down an auditory nerve, so the process of hearing can begin, as we subjectively understand it.

Our hearing depends on the cochlear nerve's ability to receive and transmit the electrochemical signals. To give an idea of the complexity, there are an average 30,000 nerve fibers inside it.

The best they can do is bypass human hearing by replacing it with an electronic device that signals the cochlea directly.

Cochlear implant costs range from $60,000 to $100,000.

Medical insurance may be able to help, but that varies depending on the situation.

Cochlear Implant Technology: An Overview

Here is an ear with a cochlear implant and a transmitter

  • A cochlear implant comprises an external ‘hearing aid’ which receives and processes sound from the environment.
  • An external device receives those signals, and converts them into electric impulses which are the ‘language of hearing’.
  • An implanted transmitter receives them and sends them to surgically implanted electrodes on the cochlea.
  • The cochlear nerve picks up the baton by sending the electrochemical impulses to the brain.

Reasons Why Cochlear Implants Are Expensive

Cochlear implants require delicate surgery by experienced neurosurgeons. The process takes between two and four hours, during which time the patient is under general anesthesia, to make them sleep. The description that follows may not suit sensitive readers, however it does help explain why a cochlear implant is not cheap:

  • The surgeon opens a cut behind the patient’s ear to expose and open the honeycomb-like mastoid bone.
  • They then identify and follow the facial nerves to the cochlea that sends sound impulses to the brain.
  • These impulses would normally reach the cochlea from the ear canal via the ear drum to the inner ear.
  • However, in this instance the connectivity has failed so the surgeon implants electrodes on the cochlea instead.
  • The surgeon then attaches an electronic receiver / stimulator to the mastoid bone under the patient’s skin.
  • They then tidy up and close the incision. The patient moves to the recovery area for observation, and release.

Cochlear Implant Showing External and Internal Components

The internal and external components of a cochlear implant

Completing the Cochlear Implant and Restoring Hearing

The patient recuperates for six weeks, while carefully following instructions for changing dressings, caring for stitches, and general wound hygiene. They then return to have their external microphone and speech processor added.

An audiologist then programs the speech processor and activates it. The system can now stimulate the cochlear nerve in response to sounds from the external environment. However, this is not yet the end of the patient’s journey.

It can take quite some time for a patient’s brain to comprehend what the signals mean, especially if they were previously deaf. Therefore the benefits of cochlear implants seldom, if ever equate to normal hearing.

None the less, the average patient does learn to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and comprehend speech in person or over the telephone.

Cochlear Implants in Context of Other Alternatives

Cochlear implants are only indicated where the entire hearing system is ineffective, with the exception of the cochlear itself, and the cochlea nerve. Bone implants are a simpler (and far cheaper) alternative if the conductivity loss is in the outer ear and / or the ear drum.

Some people with conductivity loss also have sensorineural damage to their inner ear and / or auditory nerve system. They many only struggle to understand what people are saying if their conductivity loss is mild. If this is the case, then they may obtain sufficient remission with a pair of digital hearing aids from Blue Angels Hearing.