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How do doctors place cochlear implant electrodes?

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Quick Answer

Cochlear electrodes are implanted by exposing the ear canal and the cochlea organ, according to Brown University. The electrode is placed on the sensory cells inside the cochlea and stimulated to transmit sound.

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Cochlear electrodes are implanted under general anesthesia, notes Brown University. Physicians make an incision behind the ear to gain entry to the ear canal, ending in the cochlea.

Once the cochlea is exposed, the electrode array is implanted in the cochlea through an opening called the round window, explains Hearing Research, a medical journal. Electrode insertion can cause friction and irritation as it rubs against the tissues lining the scala tympani. Hyaluronic acid is used as a lubricant to reduce the tissue damage, adds Brown University.

After implantation, cochlear electrodes are tested for their ability to stimulate sensory ganglion cells, explains Brown University. If the ganglion cells are viable, the impulse causes the stapedius muscle to contract, indicating that sound can be heard. Each electrode is stimulated with high electrical impulses to confirm its ability to produce the sound reflex.

The success of the cochlear implant is largely affected by the placement depth, advises Brown University. In the cochlea, the sensory cells encountered first by the surgeon transmit lower-frequency sounds. Sounds across a broader range of frequencies are achieved by inserting the electrode further but not beyond the first turn of the cochlea.

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