Cochlear Implants

What would it be like to watch your child respond to your voice for the first time? Or to finally hear leaves rustling or birds singing? If you or someone in your care is deaf or severely hard of hearing, cochlear implant surgery performed at Alaska Center for Ear, Nose & Throat by Dr. Mark B. Lorenz and our surgical team can be a life-changing procedure. Dr. Lorenz is a board-certified otolaryngologist, and is certified in the subspecialty of neurotology — a branch of otolaryngology focused on diagnosing and treating neurological disorders of the ear.

Learn more about Dr. Lorenz and his expertise treating deafness and severe hearing loss with cochlear implants by requesting a consultation at our Anchorage practice, or by calling our office at (907) 279-8800 to schedule an appointment.

What Are Cochlear Implants?

Unlike hearing aids which amplify sound, cochlear implants replace the function of a damaged cochlea (part of the inner ear) to provide sound signals to the brain.

Cochlear implants include 2 separate components:

  • A small electronic device that Dr. Lorenz surgically implants just below the skin behind the ear, which is connected to an electrode inserted inside the cochlea
  • An external device, worn behind the ear, that includes a microphone, sound processor, microphone, and battery compartment

The processor translates sounds captured by the microphone into electrical signals that are transmitted to the internal electronic stimulator. Those signals are then sent through the electrode into the cochlea, stimulating auditory nerves which communicate the information to the brain. The cochlear implants used at our practice are approved by the FDA.

How a Cochlear Implant Works

Diagram
  1. A microphone picks up sounds and the processor translates them into digital signals.
  2. These signals are transmitted through the coil to the implant under the skin.
  3. The implant sends electrical signals through the electrode into the cochlea.
  4. Hearing nerve fibers send signals to the brain, providing the sensation of sound.

Procedure

In a typical case, Dr. Lorenz performs cochlear implant surgery as an outpatient procedure using general anesthesia. He begins by making a small incision behind the ear, exposing the middle ear space where the cochlea is located. The ear canal and ear drum are left intact during the procedure. He then inserts the cochlear implant under the skin and muscle. Next, a small incision is made in the cochlea for the insertion of the electrode. After testing the device to ensure it's working properly, Dr. Lorenz closes the incision and dresses it.

The surgery typically takes from 3 to 4 hours.

A patient returns several weeks after the surgery to have the external parts of the device — the microphone, processor, and transmitter — placed behind the ear and adjusted. It's necessary for the surgical incision to heal before completing the procedure.

Watch the story of one Anchorage, Alaska family whose lives were changed when Dr. Lorenz performed cochlear implant surgery on their daughter.

Recovery

The recovery following cochlear implant surgery is typically tolerated quite well, even by children. Children should be kept home from day care or school for about a week after the surgery and limit strenuous physical activities for about 3 weeks. We provide adult patients and the parents of children detailed instructions to help during the recovery period and encourage you to ask questions or discuss any concerns you may have.

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Meet Our Physicians

Each of our physicians is board-certified in Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, and Dr. Ellerbe is board-certified in Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

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