People with hearing loss could benefit from cochlear implants. (Mohamed_hassan/pixabay)
The WHO says over 1.5 billion people globally have hearing loss, and that number is expected to increase to 2.5 billion by 2050. Plenty of research has been performed to help patients cope with their conditions and further progress with hearing device developments, including cochlear implants. These can help restore hearing for those who are severely affected due to internal ear damage and can’t rely on hearing aids.
However, cochlear implants have also cast some concerns because they can ultimately fail and lead to other complications, like skin infections. Even then, people experience different results with these devices. Researchers also conducted studies on rats wearing cochlear implants, discovering that their responses varied widely, a similar outcome as humans. The neural activity and behavioral responses occurring in the brain’s Locus Coeruleus (LC) region determine the response variations.
An otolaryngology surgeon makes a small incision behind the patient’s ear before implanting the hearing device’s electrodes in the cochlea. This procedure isn’t very uncomfortable with minimal risk. At first, physicians suggested cochlear implants for those who experience complete hearing loss. Now that research has significantly progressed, the implants also work extremely well for those with partial hearing loss. MIT scientists have developed regenerative drugs to reverse hearing loss.
So how do these hearing devices work? Sounds travel through the eardrum and into the cochlea. Afterward, the cochlea’s hair cells bend in response to sound and transmit a signal through nerves to the brain for sound interpretation. Each sensory cell has an optimal frequency to achieve effective responses. The cochlea cells respond best to low-frequency sounds, and researchers have attempted to create advanced hearing systems for that purpose. So far, cochlear implants work best.
Today’s cochlear implants are designed to replicate the human hearing system’s functionality, with each electrode stimulating the nerve at specific frequencies. Changing the stimulation technique can benefit patients with partial hearing loss.
However, cochlear implant devices still have some limitations. For instance, nonstandard definitions and calculation formulas lead to less precise rehabilitation effects. Additional research must be performed to determine the effectiveness and precision of these hearing devices, and systems need to be developed for follow-ups and evaluation. More cochlear implant studies need to be conducted to determine their effectiveness.
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