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Why cochlear implants fail

If you or your child is deaf, you may be considering a cochlear implant. Major companies in this arena include Advanced Bionics, Cochlear and Med-El. Their devices have helped many people, but cochlear implants do sometimes fail.

Sometimes the failure is because of something a company did. Other times, it is due to factors such as head trauma.

Infection

Cochlear implant surgery requires the lifting of skin and tissue to place the implant. There is always the risk of infection with surgery, although proper procedures can drastically minimize the risk.

Device failure

Implant extrusion and electrode migration are common reasons some cochlear implants fail. For example, reimplantation surgery may be necessary if there are problems with the electrodes that cause the implant to not work.

Not tested enough

Some implants do not undergo sufficient testing before companies deem them ready for patient use. For example, there have been quite a few problems with Advanced Bionics' HiRes90k, Clarion 1.2 and Clarion II/III implants. In 2013, a Kentucky jury even awarded a family more than $7.2 million due to improper testing of the HiRes90k implant.

If nothing else, sufficient testing enables a company to fairly and adequately warn consumers about the risks associated with products.

Age

Cochlear implants have been around for a while. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration approved their use in the 1980s. Some people who received implants years ago may need new internal components as their original ones age and stop working as well.

Head trauma

If someone falls, gets in a car crash or suffers head trauma in some way, that can affect the placement and effectiveness of the cochlear implant. Revision surgery may be necessary to restore the implant to its proper place or to put a new one in.

Lack of adjustment

There are also people who do not adjust well to an implant. Perhaps the sounds are too overwhelming for them, or they have unbearable tinnitus. They may decide that the possible benefits of the implant are not worth it in their case.

 

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