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Hearing Pocket

Cochlear Implant Myths

Get to Know These Widely Held Beliefs So You Can Inform People of the True Facts

As parents of children with cochlear implants, we are somewhat used to the interest that our child’s cochlear implant generates. People “politely” stare at the coils on the head, some wonder silently, and others, when you inform them that it’s called a cochlear implant, respond with a blank face of total ignorance.

Occasionally, you do come across someone who thinks they know something or two about a cochlear implant. However, after speaking with them for a few moments, you may actually begin to wish that they would be of the former group. Their limited knowledge and understanding of what a cochlear implant is and how it works lends to some very basic misunderstandings that gives rise to the myths and legends that are so widespread.

Cochlear implants have had more than their fair share of myths and misconceptions since they first arrived. The source of these myths is not clear. Perhaps they are spread by those who oppose the use of cochlear implants, or they are the figment of someone’s imagination. Either way, the cochlear implant’s reputation will suffer as long as these beliefs are still widely accepted.

Here is a list of the 5 most common myths that we've encountered. It is important that cochlear implant users be knowledgeable enough to dispel these myths by properly educating those that are willing to learn the truth.

Myth # 1:"Cochlear Implants are attached to the brain."
Fact: Cochlear Implants are implanted in the inner ear (a.k.a. the cochlea) and avoid the area of the brain entirely.

Many people are led to believe that cochlear implant is a very sensitive and major surgery since it involves operating on the brain. There is also the fear that the internal component can go bad and “damage the brain” that it sits upon. All this is nonsense. The cochlear implant doesn’t go near the brain at all. The internal electrode array gets inserted into the inner ear canal or cochlea, and the receiver is placed right under the skin of the skull. The brain is not touched by any component of the cochlear implant, nor is it exposed at all during surgery.

Myth # 2:"Children with cochlear implants cannot learn to sing."
Fact: Hearing impaired children can learn music just as well as their hearing peers.

Music and song are very difficult areas for a hearing impaired person, as the sensitivities to the different keys and notes are necessary to both learn and appreciate its fine points. However, with the hard work and diligence that hearing impaired children are used to putting in, they too can be successful in this regard. Let’s not forget, Ludwig von Beethoven, the world’s most renowned musician, was profoundly deaf even as he produced widely acclaimed music!

Myth # 3:"Cochlear Implants are a cure for deafness."
Fact: Cochlear Implants make it possible for a deaf person to integrate with hearing society.

A very common misconception is that after receiving a cochlear implant, the child will become an ordinary hearing person. The fact is, auditory and language skills are only acquired with lots of hard work and training. The cochlear implant does not come close to be a replacement for natural hearing. And should the great success of the cochlear implant cause you to forget your child is deaf, there is always swimming time and bath time to remind you. 

Myth # 4: "Cochlear implant surgery will preclude the opportunity to benefit from future technology."
Fact: Cochlear implants are the best available technology to help a deaf child learn sound for the foreseeable future.

Much hype is generated about the possibility of hair-cell regeneration, and that the insertion of the electrode array into the cochlea will kill off any remaining hair cells that can be regenerated in the future. As many years have gone by without any “new technology” available, it is safe to assume that cochlear implants are the best bet for now. Any new technology, even should it become available, will require rigorous and lengthy safety testing before it is approved for use in children. During that time, your child would have been trained to speak and hear just like other kids.

Myth # 5: "Cochlear Implants are too experimental."
Fact: Cochlear implants have a well-established success record.

The concept that an implant can cause a deaf person to hear does sound like science fiction, leading people to believe that cochlear implants are experimental. Actually, cochlear implants have been approved by the FDA for use in children since 1990, and they have been used in tens of thousands of children around the world with very positive results. Before their approval, they underwent very rigorous testing, and their performance is constantly studied by experts to see how well the users are benefiting from them.

According to recent studies, only 15% of the deaf population in the United States choose to receive cochlear implants. This very small percentage may be as a result of people having wrong perceptions of them.

It is highly likely that a cochlear implant candidate will first discuss the implant with an actual CI user or parent before agreeing to be implanted. By being able to properly respond and inform the candidate, you will be more likely to succeed in convincing the candidate to undergo implantation, and thereby increase their quality of life.