Hearing loss is a common problem affecting the quality of life of many adults. Struggling to hear conversations in a noisy restaurant or asking others to repeat themselves can be frustrating for the patient and family members. Hearing loss can be caused by damping of the sound wave vibration traveling through the ear canal, ear drum and hearing bones—called conductive hearing loss—or decreased function of the inner ear organ (cochlea)—called sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can be caused by ear wax accumulation, a hole in the ear drum, an ear infection, or other causes. It is important to have an ENT evaluation if you are found to have conductive hearing loss to check for a correctable medical problem. Sensorineural hearing loss is often caused by deterioration of the cochlea with age or from loud noise exposure.
Audiogram and Hearing Aids
Evaluating hearing loss often starts with an audiogram (hearing test) with an audiologist to precisely measure one’s hearing ability. Hearing aids are often the most effective option in correcting a hearing loss that is affecting your day-to-day life. We trust our experienced audiologists at West Coast Hearing and Balance to provide you with the best options for hearing aids and the expertise to tune the devices to your hearing level. Patient’s should be evaluated by an ENT prior to exploring hearing aids to rule out any correctable cause of hearing loss or other ear condition which requires investigation.
Contact one of our offices today to set up an appointment for a hearing evaluation. We offer hearing tests and hearing aid services in all four offices — Oxnard, Camarillo, Thousand Oaks, and Simi Valley.
When a patient has sensorineural hearing loss that is too severe for hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be the best option for hearing rehabilitation. A cochlear implant is a device that is works with your inner ear to recreate hearing. During the outpatient surgery, an electrode array (a wire with up to 22 electrode contacts) is inserted into the cochlea (inner ear). The electrode stimulates the nearby nerve endings to transform sound received by the outer processor’s microphone into high and low pitch sounds stimulated by each electrode contact like playing the keys on a piano. With time, cochlear implant users are able to understand conversations with ease with greater clarity than the sound quality of their hearing aids. Cochlear implants are highly effective in restoring functional hearing in patients who qualify.
Cochlear implantation is a relatively low-risk surgery under general anesthesia lasting about 2-3 hours. It is a well-tolerated surgery—even by patients in their 80’s—with mild postoperative pain. Your surgeon will discuss the risks of surgery and risks which may be specific to your health. During the surgery, an incision is made behind the ear. Bone is removed with a drill behind the ear to access the inner ear, and the electrode array is gently inserted into the cochlea. It does not involve brain surgery, and you may return home after surgery the same day.
To qualify for a cochlear implant, your audiologist or ENT doctor may evaluate your audiogram to determine if you may be a candidate. If so, you will then undergo a Cochlear Implant Evaluation, which is a specialized hearing evaluation by an audiologist in our Thousand Oaks office. This evaluation will test your understanding of speech while using hearing aids. You may be found to be a candidate in one or both ears if you score poorly even with use of hearing aids. Your audiologist will determine if you qualify, based on your scores. You may see one of our ENT surgeons before or after the Cochlear Implant Evaluation to discuss details of surgery.
Unlike hearing aids, insurance companies consistently provide coverage for cochlear implants if you are found to be a candidate following the Cochlear Implant Evaluation.
Contact us today for an appointment to evaluate your hearing with one of our ENT physicians!