What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted medical device that is designed to electronically improve hearing. While a hearing aid amplifies decreased hearing in an acoustic way, the cochlear implant electrically stimulates the hearing nerve and bypasses the damaged cells used for hearing in the inner ear.

There are two separate parts of a cochlear implant.

The external, or outside component:

The outside portion is called a speech processor. It has one or more microphones that detect sound around you. The processor, which is worn on your head, then takes that sound and sends the information to the internal portion in your head.

The internal, or inside component:

The internal portion is the actual implant. It is placed under the skin near the ear. It receives information from the external sound processor and sends the information to an electrode array. The electrode array is placed into your inner ear and stimulates the hearing nerve sending sound information to the brain.

 

Am I a candidate for a cochlear implant?

  • If your child is 12 months (younger in special cases) to 18 years of age.
  • If you are an adult of any age.
  • If you are an adult or child with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears.
  • If you or your child receive limited benefit from appropriately fitted bilateral hearing aids.
  • Individuals and families with appropriate expectations and an understanding of the necessary follow-up.

 

What happens during my cochlear implant evaluation?

The initial evaluation is a cooperative process that involves many professionals.

Audiology and Hearing Aid Verification

A complete evaluation to determine the type and degree of hearing loss. If you do not currently wear hearing aids, or your hearing aids are not appropriately fitted, you will be temporarily fit with hearing aids. It is important that you bring your own hearing aids and ear molds to this evaluation even if you have not been wearing them. If you have never worn hearing aids, you will be required to undergo a hearing aid trial before proceeding with a cochlear implant evaluation.

Speech-Language Evaluation

You will meet with a speech-language pathologist to evaluate your speech prior to surgery for a cochlear implant. You will also follow up several times following your cochlear implant activation to ensure that your speech production progresses.

Vestibular (Balance) Audiology

Our vestibular audiology department will evaluate your balance function prior to surgery to establish your current balance status and will follow up again after surgery to make sure nothing has changed.

Deaf Educator

The inclusion of a Deaf Educator on the team is important in understanding all possible options. All modes of communication are provided as options including verbal or signed language.

Examination by an implant audiologist

Aided speech perception testing will be administered to determine whether you are audiologically an implant candidate. The audiologist will discuss the cochlear implant in detail and review what patients gain from its use. Pediatric patients will be evaluated audiologically and by caregiver report.

Imaging and Surgery

To ensure that you're medically eligible for a cochlear implant, you will have a CT scan (Computerized Tomography). The surgeon will meet with you prior to surgery to explain the process and answer any questions that you might have.

 

What could prevent me from getting a cochlear implant?

Medical factors that could disqualify you as a cochlear implant candidate could include deafness due to lesions of the acoustic nerve or central auditory pathway, active and present middle ear infections, absence of the cochlea or acoustic nerve, or health conditions that prevent surgery.

 

What about my cochlear implant surgery?

Surgery for a cochlear implant typically takes about 1.5-3 hours and is done under general anesthesia. Typically, patients check in on the day of surgery, recover in the hospital, and are discharged the same day. You follow up with your cochlear implant audiologist in around two weeks for your activation.

 

What happens after I receive a cochlear implant?

Around two weeks after your cochlear implant surgery, your audiologist will activate your cochlear implant. This waiting period between surgery and activation provides healing time from the operation. Your audiologist will give you your cochlear implant processor at the time of your initial activation.

You will be given information to show you how to properly care for your device. You will need to come back for several follow-up appointments so that your cochlear implant can be adjusted as you get more used to the sound. For both children and adults, you will be asked to come back at several times from the first month through the first year to adjust the changes in your hearing. Additional appointments might also be needed. It is important that you wear your cochlear implant all waking hours of the day so that you receive the best benefit from your device.