Why doesn’t a sneeze blow the electrode array out of the ear?

Why doesn’t a sneeze blow the electrode array out of the ear?

Asked by yours truly when he came down with a cold on Friday, four nights after implant surgery. The speed of a sneeze has been reported as being anywhere between 100mph and 85% of the speed of sound. The ear is connected to the mouth via the eustachian tube, so air pressure changes in one carry over to the other. In diagrams of a cochlear implant (here, for example) it looks as if the electrode array is just sitting inside the cochlea, unanchored. And right after surgery, it’s all squishy and wet in there. So why isn’t a sneeze followed (metaphorically) by the kind of tinkling sounds that happen when a clock is dropped onto concrete?

Same question goes for nose-blowing. It’s got to cause a tremendous overpressure in the middle ear.

I asked Jerry Loeb, who was chief scientist at Advanced Bionics for a number of years, and he told me, “The only thing likely to dislodge a cochlear electrode is a large traction movement applied directly to the lead.” In other words, to move it, you have to pull directly on the electrode array. A sneeze doesn’t do that. Also, I figure, a medical device that could be blown loose by a sneeze wouldn’t be on the market. “Sneeze away,” Jerry told me. I got through my cold with no trouble, and I appear to be fully intact.

Comments

  1. I have the awfulest cold just two weeks after my REPLACEMENT CI surgery…oy. I have been sneezing and sniffling and was starting to panic…I actually have a lot of pressure in my ear right now. I googled “does sneezing dislodge cochlear implants” and you were the first thing to come up! Thanks for asking the all-important question so I can relax a bit! 🙂

  2. susan Bogard says

    Had my cochlear implant last Thursday. Have a head cold. So happy I found this! Doctor told me not to blow my nose. That’s kinda hard.

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