How Do Cochlear Implants Work?


There’s a horror movie I love,
where no one’s allowed to talk because scary monsters will hear them
and eat them, and it’s fantastic, but a main character has a cochlear implant, and they get the depiction all wrong. Which is a shame, because cochlear implants
are fascinating and ingenious devices, and because it breaks the movie for me. So what are cochlear implants, exactly,
and how can they help even the profoundly deaf hear? A cochlear implant is a medical device that
goes, as the name suggests, inside your cochlea. Quick refresher: that’s the spiral structure
of three fluid-filled canals coiled up like a snail’s shell in your inner ear, past
the eardrum, hammer, anvil, and stirrup. In one canal, there are hair cells along the
length of the spiral. At the base of the spiral, the hair cells
respond to higher frequency sounds, and at the apex, they move at low frequencies. These movements trigger nerve cells, converting
the sound waves to electrical impulses and passing the signal on to the brain for processing. That’s just a basic overview of how it all
works… assuming it does work. The most common form of hearing loss is sensorineural,
where the hair cells, nerves, or brain aren’t functioning like they do in a hearing person. Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by
a lot of things, such as age, loud noises, trauma, disease, or genetics. Sometimes it can be treated with a hearing
aid, which is basically just an amplifier that boosts the volume of speech while cutting
down on background noise. But when a hearing aid is not enough, a cochlear
implant may do the trick. Instead of getting the outer and middle ear
to transmit sound waves like a hearing aid does, a cochlear implant goes straight to
the finish line. It consists of two parts: a speech processor
and the actual implant. The speech processor sits on the back of the
ear and is just what it sounds like: it takes the sounds it hears and converts them to
electrical signals. Those signals are sent to the implant, which
rests under the skin and connects to the speech processor outside via a magnet. The implant has a long array of electrodes
that actually curl up inside the cochlea, and when these electrodes go off, they trigger
the nerve cells like the hair normally would. Even though the device itself isn’t making
any noise, the brain interprets the electrical pulses it pipes in as though it were sound,
and, just like that, people can start to make out speech when before they were in a world
of complete silence. Hear that, John Krasinski? They make no sound! I’m still really bothered by that. It’s not a perfect replica of speech, and
it’s not the same as having a full range of hearing. The cochlea has thousands of hair cells, while
a cochlear implant only has a couple dozen electrodes, and they can activate overlapping
regions of neurons, so the tones of speech and music get blurred together. Programs that help the speech processor to
encode tone and timbre can aid music recognition, and by mapping an individual’s cochlea, scientists
can improve speech recognition by actually turning off certain electrodes that were activating
unintended neurons. Cochlear implants are a topic of fierce debate
within the Deaf community, and plenty of people who are deaf prefer not to have them, because
they live happy lives and are part of a community. For others, though, they can’t picture their
lives without one. Either way, I think we can all agree they’re
a marvel of science and technology. And that A Quiet Place was great, but they
could have spent five seconds googling “Cochlear Implants.” If we’re comin’ in loud and co-clear, be sure
to click that subscribe button. And, on the topic of audio, did you ever wonder
what’s happening in your brain when you hear someone scream? Trace explains in this episode why your body
goes into a whole cascade of defensive responses when you hear it. Be sure to subscribe to Seeker, and thanks
for watching.

100 thoughts on “How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

  1. 2:40 What about cochlear implants are they debating? Also the "Deaf community" keeps people disabled by hanging their social life over their heads? That's pretty scary.

  2. I'm not hard of hearing, but is there a device like this that'll make my ears perk up when someone is talking about me. There's a lot of gossip at work. I want an implant to make my ears more perky.

  3. Short answer: the implant replaces the malfunctioning hairs in the ear's cochlea with electrodes that trigger the brain with signals to let the person "hear"

  4. Maybe the implant makes noise in the movie because it’s malfunctioning. We don’t know how old the implant is. The electronics might have begun to short circuit and make noise through the microphone in the implant.

  5. @seeker Just an FYI in the video they got the base and the apex of the cochlea switched around in the animation. The base is closest to the bones and the apex is the furthest away 0:40

  6. The only way to fix my hearing with current technology is to get a cochlear implant even though im not deaf. But the reason im not getting one is due to the fact that they are irreversible. Once they drill into the cochlear bone, or a specific spot in the cochlear, you will never get the natural hearing you had in that specific frequency or all you hearing in general.

  7. It does not just fix the issue for kids, there's a bunch of therapy that you should follow with it that parents don't do, there is many deaf people who hate it so please do your research before making this decision

  8. Apparently you haven't noticed, but Hollywood almost never gets the science right. I blame them for creationists, flat-earthers, chemtrailers, anti-vaxxers, 'noisy' cochlear implants, and other pseudoscientific claptrap. There needs to be a law requiring that anything scientific depicted in films must be accurate. Too many people get their scientific information from movies and television and mistake it as fact.

  9. im 100% deaf in left ear born that way and around 50% in my right . somtimes i think i would be better off fully deaf with 2 coclear implants. the dr said that may be true because if i got a coclear implant that it would be equivalent to listening to am radio on one side and fm on the other.. and it will be annoying and hard to understand..

  10. The script was probably written with a hearing aid in mind (which does whistle), but the Deaf actor they hired had a cochlear implant so they changed it.

  11. Your basic cochlear physiology is incorrect. The oval window is where we detect high frequency sounds and the apex is located in the centre of the cochlear and detects the low frequency sounds. You could have spent '5 seconds' to fact check this before incorrectly educating everyone.

  12. Great video. I am a 2 year user of a similar device, a BAHA= Bone Anchored Hearing Aid. I love it. Can you do a video on them? Mine is made by Oticon

  13. The movie is "A quiet place", Bass hits hard at around 18-22HZ, and Atmos track is amazing!
    If you watch the movie without those things you won't experience it all. They are not allowed to talk and make noises, so the whole movie is SOUND!. Keep that in mind. !! ^_^

  14. The implants are not the biggest issue with that movie. The lackadaisical parenting was the killer for me….and their kid.

  15. I hate when people get small fact wrong, like I watched a zombie ish movie about a gun company, and they show the head honcho with a breachloader double barrel shotgun, it depicts him using it like a pump

  16. I’m pretty sure an electrical pulse would cause interference and create feedback in the microphone and speakers, so it’s still believable in my book.

  17. u are a funny channel tho , more of the 50 % of the things u say are just rumours that u find online and whitout any sort of checking u report it here, its not relative to this video tho

  18. I have three cousins with cochlear implants and they're pretty funny! I learn some sign language from them!

  19. I have a friend who has a cochlear. She has a lot of struggles because of how people can be around her if they don't understand how it works. I have to explain to people that she can hear with it in but the sound kind of bounces weirdly and they usually have to tune it. That facing her when speaking is important so she can also lip read.
    Her speech is affected and when she takes the cochlear off she can't hear anything whatsoever. When she was homeless and staying on my couch, I would spook her when she had it out because she couldn't hear me coming into the room. She's one of my close friends and I'm glad she has the cochlear.

  20. well, mostly quiet items,like smoke alarms when no fire is happening, start making weird noises when the batteries start to die, so maybe krasinski was mixing BOTH ideas into one. I mean, he had an ACTUAL deaf person IN the movie,so i would of thought they did their research ahead of time. either way,thanks for the video.

  21. As a severe to profound hard of hearing person using hearing aids, I think this is very fascinating. This will probably be the solution to when I can't use my hearing aids anymore! Good to know how it works!

  22. Spoiler Alert!!!

    I think you need to re-watch the movie: I think you've misinterpreted it.
    As I saw it, the cochlear implant didn't make any noise in the movie, however due to it's malfunction, the transmitting coil was emitting an EM signal that simulated a high frequency noise for Regan (the daughter). It appeared to me that aliens could somehow "hear" the EM signal from the cochlear implant; no characters aside from Regan and the aliens ever reacted to the cochlear implant signal.
    When Regan held the cochlear implant up to the microphone in the climax, the transducer in the microphone responded to the EM signal from the implant, turning the EM signal in to an amplified audible noise, similar the simulated noise that Regan (and the aliens) were able to hear up to that point. Ironically, while this would have been the first time the rest of the humans could hear the painful noise, Regan could not.
    The amplified noise was even more debilitating to the aliens than the original (much weaker) EM signal, and allowed them to be easily killed.

  23. I watched A Quiet Place with my brother (who has a cochlear implant lol) and we kept referring to it as a "hearing aid" the whole time. We never noticed it was supposed to be an implant, although I guess the magnet piece should have been the giveaway. I assumed it was an in-between fusion.
    My brother had a hearing aid when he was younger and used to make it whistle for fun so we recognized the high-pitched buzzing in the movie, but we didn't even talk about how a cochlear implant wouldn't produce that sound. Bizarre. 😅

  24. 2:04 "in a world of complete silence".
    Being deaf is not the same as hearing silence.
    For example, tinnitus can make deafness sound very noisy.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tinnitus

  25. They can give bad headaches to the person. Which is one of the reasons some people dont like them. A headache doesn't have sound but it makes sense that they used sound as a way of showing it. And also the dad could have changed it. He was tinkering with is anyway.

  26. I figured the “sound” in the movie as being the result of magnetic resonance because of the implants being self made. Could that not be an issue?

  27. I watched the movie he was talking about 2 days ago and now I get this video on my recommendation… Is someone tracking me 🤔

  28. TLDR; wrong, it is theremin, not a hearing aid.

    Am i honestly the only one who recognized this issue DURING the film and started to see the guy was 'winging it" in the design of the aid. When the girl wears the device, it doesn't actually work… properly as a hearing aid.
    It did work, as a proximity alert to a harmonic frequency which appeared VERY high pitched, either due to feedback loop or simply humans only catch a sub harmonic within range of hearing.
    The idea of the film, is sound is MORE sensitive and DANGEROUS to our ears than we actually interpret.
    He takes it further, explaining the water by the river… which ultimately could help the viewer understand SNR or Noise Floor being HIGH enough in amplitude to drown out loud sounds.

    As much as I appreciate the video, to imply the device creates ZERO sound within proximity of the creatures, makes no sense… as the story goes… the device REACTS to the proximity of the creature.
    Thus, the creature carries the unheard frequency, the device is a theremin.

    Now how she HEARS or FEELS it… is interpretation. Sadly though, the movie made sense for sci fi.
    At no point, was the father declared an engineer, audiologist, neurologist, biologist, or anything other than a tinker'er … which is WHY the apparent plot is confusing … because it isn't actually a plot hole.

    The deaf, can feel theremins, whether they hear them or not.

  29. To be fair to the movie, the dad had to build them himself and I don’t remember anything that suggested he knew how they worked, either.

  30. Hey id like to add my own incite to cochlear implants, I've grown up with a brother who was born deaf, diagnosed deaf at around age 2 he was put under and had something inserted into the side of his head, this then allowed the cochlear implant to attach above his ear

    Anyway, having a brother born deaf created numerous issues and mental issues with his behaviour often using his cochlear as a weapon, taking it off to not hear what people are saying aroud him, or If the area beomes too crowded he refuses to wear.it as the vibrations in his ear cause extreme earache which he says is unbearable at times

  31. Wow. A deaf wants to stay deaf because they are part of a community. That's one of the stupidest thing I ever heard. Like "we got a cure for cancer", lol no need I'm a part of a community.

    And yeah I think they misinterpreted cochlear implants with hearing aids.

  32. If they know how the hairs sense the sound, could they program an audio feed directly to the receiver? Like code a movie to all of the different impulses?

  33. thank-you to all of the animals who sacrificed for this advancement. hopefully every human who accepts technology gives thanks to those who made it possible

  34. But the whole thing about her aid was that it wasn't built right, so as it was a home made aid we can't say for certain how he was trying to make it work. Obviously, he was going the wrong direction.

  35. I have a baby cousin who has these. He has magnet in his head and you just stick the device to his head and he can hear things. He use to not be able to talk but now that he's had the implant for a year he can talk now. Pretty amazing

  36. I'm deaf on the right side but can perfectly hear on the left. So perfectly that noone noticed until I was 4 years old. When I heard of the implant and got more information on it, I decided not to get one. Because whilst I might hear speech from the left in a loud crowded room a bit better, music will sound essentially shit. Yes you could simply disable the implant whilst listening to music but for me that would be most of the time, so I figured it's not really worth it. Maybe of my hearing on the left got bad eventually and the tech is more advanced it'd would make sense for me, but until then not

  37. Cochlear Implants are the first working Brain-Internet Interfaces. Modern Cochlear Implants have already a Bluetooth receiver and the Brain understands the Digital Signals.

  38. That was part of the movie. Just a guy trying to make something work. And he couldn't, he just made it make noise. Why over think it

  39. My son is a bilateral implanted child, he was born deaf, and now when you speak with him you cannot even tell the difference. A true miracle of science.

  40. Cochlear implant devices have been
    helping the deaf community hear for many years now. Unfortunately, not everyone
    who has received one feels blessed. Thousands have had devices fail in one way
    or another leaving them traumatized, scarred and damaged. If this has happened
    to you or anyone you know call the team at Pirl (406) 219-7798 or email www.mypirl.com you are not alone, we want to help.

  41. This was a good look into cochlear implants but I feel as a deaf person I should give some insight cochlear implants aren’t amazing things that make deaf people hear they are amazing but work for only few people because if you’ve been deaf all your life you wouldn’t benefit from it and you normally have to be profoundly / severely deaf to get one but there is a whole spectrum of deafness before you get to that point even some hard of hearing people can’t hear words and also a lot of deaf people including me choose not to get one because too many hearing people think since I have one I can hear just like they can which is not true a lot of deaf people as babies are forced to get one because they want them to live a normal life but being deaf doesn’t mean my life isn’t normal

  42. Not sure if you're aware, but you have the base and apex of the cochlea reversed. The apex (low frequencies) is the more coiled part, and the base (high frequencies) is the less coiled part.

  43. As a Coda (child of deaf adults), I appreciate this video. It gives a very clear, and science based understanding of cochlear implants. This has always been a question of mine though, if we can augment hearing, can we also augment other senses?

  44. i was born completely deaf and got operation when i was two months old and glad i live in a world where there is cochlear implant for people like me hear

  45. Its not the sound in the movie. its something to do with the electric stuff in the implant. Look at the light bulbs every time the monsters show up. Basically, take the time to pay attention to the movie.

  46. The graphics mislabel the base vs. apex of the cochlea. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones at John Krasinski.

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