This is a question which gets asked frequently. It comes about because thereís a fear of having something inserted into our heads and it poses a number of questions.
1. Does it hurt to have a Cochlear implant?
2. Can you feel the Cochlear implant once itís inside your head?
3. Does it hurt to wear the processor and the coil attached to your head?
4. Can you feel the electrical impulses the implant creates inside your head?
Does it hurt to have a Cochlear implant?
Does the operation hurt? It is surgery, undertaken with a general anaesthetic, which cuts through tissue and nerves. However, you canít feel it, because you are asleep. Then when you wake up you are groggy and usually swathed in heavy bandages. For me (and most other people I have come in contact with) there is no pain or so little that most people donít even take pain killers. The worst part was getting over the affects of the anaesthetic. There is swelling at the site of the operation and this is tender, especially until the stitches/staples are removed.
Can you feel the Cochlear implant once itís inside your head?
First of all, I cannot feel the cords or the electrodes going into my cochlea.
But, if I rub my fingers over the site of my first implant sitting on the top of the mastoid bone I can feel a lump. So I can feel it with my fingers, but I unless I touch this I canít feel the implant inside my head. With my second implant I find it difficult to even find it with my fingers so that one is hard to feel at all. Because of the bump on my left side I can feel the implant if I lie on it and that isnít particularly comfortable. However, on my right side I have been able to lie on that straight after the operation as I canít feel that one at all.
If I bump my head on the site of the implant I feel it. Iíve done it a few times on low beams and also in the car door Ė that hurts. But then bumping my head even if not on my implant would hurt wouldnít it!
Does it hurt to wear the Cochlear speech processor and the coil attached to your head?
A Cochlear speech processor converts sound waves to electrical impulses and then transmits them from the external coil to the internal implant. It looks a bit like a hearing aid which is worn on the ear with a cable to the round coil which sits over the internal implant, held in place by magnets. It doesnít hurt to wear this device and you canít feel any of the computers working to make that all important electrical impulse. It really is about the same as wearing a hearing aid or glasses over your ear. Having said that, some people do get sore ears from wearing these things all the time, but this usually goes away after taking them off for a while.
It is important to make sure there is an air gap between the two magnets Ė the one on the external coil and the one on the internal implant. If there is no air gap, then the skin can break down and become a sore. If this happens you would not be able to wear the processor until the site heals and would therefore be deaf until you can wear it again.
Can you feel the electrical impulses the implant creates inside your head?
Can a normal hearing person feel the normal sound vibrations going on around you all day every day? The answer is no. Of course there are exceptions Ė a very loud beat in music and you may feel the vibrations in your head Ė but so would any hearing person. And if you are in a situation where you can feel these then get out of that environment as the sound is just way, way too loud and could do normal hearing damage. (It probably canít damage an implantees hearing because thatís already done!)
So the answer to the question ĎDoes a Cochlear implant hurt?í is basically NO!