Cochlear Implants

Common Cochlear Implant Related Terms

Below is a glossary of terms created by the Cochlear Implant Center team at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.



American Sign Language (ASL)

Manual (hand) language with its own syntax and grammar used primarily by people who are deaf.


Aspect of pronunciation that involves bringing articulatory organs together so as to shape the sounds of speech.

Assistive devices

Technical tools and devices such as alphabet boards, text telephones, or text-to-speech conversion software used to assist people with physical or emotional disorders in performing certain actions, tasks, and activities.


A health care professional trained to identify and measure hearing impairments and related disorders using a variety of tests and procedures.

Auditory brainstem response (ABR) test

Test used for hearing in infants and young children, or to test for brain functioning in unresponsive patients.

Auditory nerve

Eighth cranial nerve that connects the inner ear to the brainstem.

Autoimmune deafness

Hearing loss that may be associated with an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

Auditory neuropathy (AN)

Absent or severely distorted auditory brainstem responses with preserved otoacoustic emissions and cochlear microphonics.

Auditory / oral approach

Encourages the child to use one or more of the following:  speech acquisition, language development, optimal use of residual hearing, and lipreading (speech reading).

Auditory-verbal therapy

A parent centered approach which seeks to develop spoken language through a structured program based on a highly enhanced auditory and language input.


Brain disorder that begins in early childhood and persists throughout adulthood; affects three crucial areas of development: communication, social interaction, and creative or imaginative play.



Biological system that enables individuals to know where their bodies are in the environment and to maintain a desired position; normal balance depends on information from the labyrinth in the inner ear, and from other senses such as sight and touch, as well as from muscle movement.



Snail-shaped structure in the inner ear that contains the organ of hearing.

Cochlear implant

Medical device that bypasses damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulates auditory nerve to allow some deaf individuals to learn to hear and interpret sounds and speech. 

Conductive hearing impairment

Hearing loss caused by dysfunction of the outer or middle ear.


Something that you are born with, or present at birth.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)

One group of herpes viruses that infect humans and can cause a variety of clinical symptoms including deafness or hearing impairment; infection with the virus may be either before or after birth.




Unit that measures the intensity or loudness of sound.


Physical unsteadiness, imbalance, and lightheadedness associated with balance and other disorders.



Ear infection

Presence and growth of bacteria or viruses in the ear.

Ear wax

Yellow secretion from glands in the outer ear (cerumen) that keeps the skin of the ear dry and protected from infection.


Fluid in the labyrinth (the organ of balance located in the inner ear).

Enlarged vestibular aqueduct (EVA)

An enlarged space in the vestibular portion of the ear sometimes resulting in hearing loss, typically progressive in nature which can also include balance problems.

Eustachian tube

A canal that links the middle ear with the throat area. The eustachian tube helps to keep the pressure between the outer ear and the middle ear the same. Having the same pressure allows for the proper transfer of sound waves. The eustachian tube is lined with mucous, just like the inside of the nose and throat.

Expressive language

Putting words together to form thoughts or express one's self.




Hair cells

Sensory cells of the inner ear, which are topped with hair-like structures (stereocilia), which transform the mechanical energy of sound waves into nerve impulses.


Series of events in which sound waves in the air are converted to electrical signals and are then sent as nerve impulses to the brain where they are interpreted.

Hearing aid

Electronic device that brings amplified sound to the ear.

Hearing disorder

Disruption in the normal hearing process; sound waves are not converted to electrical signals and nerve impulses are not transmitted to the brain to be interpreted.


Inner ear

Part of the ear that contains both the organ of hearing (cochlea) and the organ of balance (labyrinth).



Organ of balance located in the inner ear. The labyrinth consists of three semicircular canals and the vestibule.


System for communicating ideas and feelings using sounds, gestures, signs, or marks.

Language disorders

Problems with verbal communication and the ability to use or understand the symbol system for interpersonal communication.





Back portion of the temporal bone behind the ear.


Inflammation of the meninges, the membranes that envelop the brain and the spinal cord; may cause hearing loss or deafness.

Middle ear

Part of the ear that includes the eardrum and three tiny bones of the middle ear, ending at the round window that leads to the inner ear.


Noise-induced hearing loss

Hearing loss that is caused either by a one-time or repeated exposure to very loud sound or sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time.


Otitis media

Inflammation of the middle ear caused by infection.

Otitis externa

Inflammation of the outer part of the ear extending to the auditory canal.

Otoacoustic emissions

Low-intensity sounds produced by the inner ear that can be quickly measured with a sensitive microphone placed in the ear canal.


Physician / surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ears, nose, throat, and head and neck.


Physician / surgeon who specializes in diseases of the ear.

Outer ear

External portion of the ear, consisting of the pinna, or auricle, and the ear canal.





Study of speech sounds.

Progressive hearing loss

A hearing loss that worsens over time.


Receptive language

Ability to process, comprehend, or integrate spoken language. Simply put, being able to understand what someone says to you.

Round window

Membrane separating the middle ear and inner ear.


Sensorineural hearing loss

Hearing loss caused by damage to the sensory cells and/or nerve fibers of the inner ear.

Sign language

Language of hand shapes, facial expressions, and movements used as a form of communication.


To perceive odor or scent through stimuli affecting the olfactory nerves.

Sound vocalization

Ability to produce voice.


Making definite vocal sounds that form words to express thoughts and ideas.

Speech disorder

Defect or abnormality that prevents an individual from communicating by means of spoken words.

Speech-language pathologist

Health professional trained to evaluate and treat people who have voice, speech, language or swallowing disorders, including hearing impairment, that affect their ability to communicate.


Frequent repetition of words or parts of words that disrupts the smooth flow of speech.

Sudden deafness

Loss of hearing that occurs quickly from causes such as explosion, a viral infection or the use of some drugs.


Something that makes pus.




Total communication

Gestures, language of signs, speech reading, finger spelling, reading, writing and residual hearing are used to help with communication.


An infectious disease caused by a parasite that can be harmful to an unborn baby.


Surgical repair of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) or bones of the middle ear.



Bony cavity of the inner ear.

Vocal cords (vocal folds)

Muscularized folds of mucous membrane that extend from the larynx (voice box) wall; enclosed in elastic vocal ligament and muscle that control the tension and rate of vibration of the cords as air passes through them.


Sound produced by air passing out through the larynx and upper respiratory tract.


Related Resources

We provide patients and families with a list of recommended outside resources, including counseling and support groups. Read More