Are Cochlear Implants Experimental?

Are cochlear implants experimental devices?

I more or less have always been a CI candidate. They were definitely experimental the first time I was considered to be a CI candidate in the early 1980s since they weren’t even FDA approved at that time.

They were still considered experimental in the 1990s.

Are they still experimental devices?

I don’t view my CI as an experimental device per sec. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen all the changes/improvements there have been over the years. However, on the other hand as my CI surgeon told me…there’s no way to know the outcomes/side effects that a CI may have after 20 years because it hasn’t been around that long. Then again I’m more used to the idea of a CI than the general population because I grew up knowing about CIs. Or, is it experimental in the sense that no one really knows what the long-term results will be for me?

Hmm….. I’m just curious as to if any CI users view their CI as an experimental device? The reason I’m bringing this up is because it seems like anti-CI people are still hanging onto a statement made in the late 1980s/1990s saying that CIs are experimental devices. They really like to emphasis this point.

When does an “experimental device” stop being experimental?

Also, does anyone know the total number of CI users worldwide? The only number I could find is 100,000 (as of 2006) and I’m not sure how reliable that number is. Another number I found that seems to be quoted a few times is 59,000 worldwide which just doesn’t seem right to me.

Either way, even though it sounds like a large number….it really isn’t when you stop and think about how many people are in the world. There has been a huge growth in CI users since 2000 and if anyone could point me in the right direction as to where I can find out how many CI users there are in both the U.S. and worldwide….that would be awesome!

11 thoughts on “Are Cochlear Implants Experimental?

  1. According to Cochlear Corp at the HLAA Convention in Nashville last month (you should have gone), the number of people implanted worldwide is over 180,000 (all three brands). Last December, Advanced Bionics shipped their 30,000th unit, too; while MedEl has over 6000 people with their hardware in the United States alone (they are much bigger in Europe).Dan Schwartz,Host of The Telegraph (UK) Hearing Blog

  2. Dan,I do have some friends who were implanted 20 years ago and they do very well with just a few electrodes and haven't had any problems. I have heard a lot of positive things about bilateral CIs and it's a shame laws/insurances are preventing some people from getting them. I know some families still struggle to just get one CI paid for.This particular blog post was "inspired" by THIS blog post which rubbed me the wrong way. Obviously there are still a lot of misconceptions about CIs out there.'m in both the deaf and hearing world so I constantly see conflicting opinions and statements from both worlds. I kind of represent a mix of both worlds.

  3. Btw, do you by any chance know where I can back that number (180,000) up? The number does sound correct but if I ever use it I want to be able to cite it.

  4. This is a really interesting topic. I'm not sure it is a valid argument against implanting young children. On average, profoundly deaf children using cochlear implants develop better articulation skills than profoundly deaf children using hearing aids. So success has been demonstrated in that area.You hear a lot from parents about the wonderful language skills their children are developing with cochlear implants, but I haven't been able to find controlled research demonstrating that cochlear implants are superior to hearing aids for developing spoken language skills (grammar, vocabulary, etc.). All the research I have seen shows comparable language between the two groups. Not saying implanted kids don't develop better spoken English, but I'd love to see some research supporting that. And yes, I have searched Medline, ComDisDome, etc. for this sort of thing. I did my masters thesis on syntax development in deaf/HI.One thing that made cochlear implants experimental was that no one knew what long-term electrical stimulation almost directly on a nerve would do. Produce heat? Damage the nerve? Cause pain? Would the nerve build up tolerance and require every-increasing stimulation? How many years until complications happened? It looks like those kinds of complications have not happened in the 20+ years of implantation. Whew.I guess the "experimental" argument is looking a little tired.I've enjoyed reading your blog. My best friend just got an implant (she's a few years older than you), after never understanding a darn thing with hearing aids, and it's funny how much of your experience is similar to hers.Thanks for posting the URL of that annoying blog/article. Little of what that person said was fact-based. Cochlear implant surgery certainly is a serious procedure, but you destroy your credibility when you equate it to a lobotomy. Or to any brain surgery. If the brain is not exposed, how can it be brain surgery? Besides, ENTs don't do brain surgery. Neurosurgeons do. Doesn't it bug you to read that? As frustrating as it is when people write inflammatory or frankly untrue statements, I guess that's the beauty of the internet: you can say whatever you want!

  5. Oh, I forgot what else I wanted to say… (haha, I didn't write enough?)I wonder if CIs should still be considered experimental for prelingually deaf adults.I'm NOT saying I disagree with prelingually deaf adults getting CIs. I believe in freedom to choose. Just saying… have the benefits been proven for this population? Maybe have to look for research on that…

  6. Dan:You asked me to delete your second comment and I accidentally deleted your third comment also (without meaning to). Annie:You bring up some good points! I will comment on them later when I have more time. 🙂

  7. Annie- I'm interested in any studies of outcomes for prelingually deaf adults who get implanted later in life. I haven't found much of anything, and the information I DID find just said the results seem to vary wildly across individuals… and the successful implantees themselves chalk it up to their own attitude.

  8. I only consider CIs experimental for babies under 12 months and for those trying to preserve some residual hearing.Been a while since you have been online. I am interested in stem cells which is experimental and hope to get it in 5-10 years pending safety and results by others who already get it.

  9. Kelly, the 180,000 figure was on the back display in 6 inch tall characters in the Cochlear Corp America booth at the HLAA Convention last month. I asked a CCA rep if that number was US Only or world wide, & she replied "worldwide." I would suggest checking with a CCA rep to verify the veracity of that number.By the way, thanks for deleting my second post, as I had your blog and another one mixed up: These last four months I've combed through many dozens of CI user blogs looking for nuggets of real life experiences and other information. Most of the time there's a lot of garbage; but once in a while – Even on the stupidest of postings, I hit paydirt. Sometimes, it even generates a "Hey, that happened to me, too!" comment; and that gives me a lead to follow up on.———————————Going back to the original question posed in the title, get your Kleenex out when you read the story behind the latest Hearing Blog post titled "Captioning done right" at For those of you reading this who have CI's, please post below what you hear through your own bionic ear(s).Dan Schwartz,Host of The Telegraph (UK) Hearing Blog

  10. Annie:Let us know if you find any research about prelingually deaf adults with CIs. I've seen so many conflicting research that just doesn't seem very well researched!I've read your blog about your friend also. It does seem like we're almost exactly on the same level with our CIs which is very interesting. Does she keep a blog herself?I am curious to see how her second CI goes! 🙂

  11. Dan,I have a friend who attended the HLAA conference also and he remembers seeing the same number. I have a couple of e-mails out to confirm that number. I believe you, I just like being able to back up numbers that I may share on my blog…..

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