COVID-19 Updates: Keeping You Safe + Elective Surgeries + Donating Plasma
- Middlesex Health is open and providing patient care, in person and through Virtual Visits. We have also resumed performing elective procedures.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that partially restores hearing. It can be an option for people who have severe hearing loss from inner-ear damage who are no longer helped by using hearing aids.
Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, a cochlear implant bypasses damaged portions of the ear to deliver sound signals to the hearing (auditory) nerve.
Cochlear implants use a sound processor that fits behind the ear. The processor captures sound signals and sends them to a receiver implanted under the skin behind the ear. The receiver sends the signals to electrodes implanted in the snail-shaped inner ear (cochlea).
The signals stimulate the auditory nerve, which then directs them to the brain. The brain interprets those signals as sounds, though these sounds won't be just like normal hearing.
It takes time and training to learn to interpret the signals received from a cochlear implant. Within a year of use, most people with cochlear implants make considerable gains in understanding speech.
Cochlear implants can restore hearing in people with severe hearing loss who are no longer helped by using hearing aids. Cochlear implants can improve their communication and quality of life.
Cochlear implants may be placed in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Cochlear implants in both ears have started to be used more often to treat bilateral severe hearing loss — particularly for infants and children who are learning to speak and process language.
Adults and children who are as young as six to 12 months old can benefit from cochlear implants. People who have cochlear implants report improved:
To be eligible for a cochlear implant, you must have:
Cochlear implant surgery is generally safe. Risks of cochlear implantation can include:
Complications are rare and can include:
Cochlear implant surgery is done under general anesthesia. This means you or your child will be in a sleep-like state during the procedure. You or your child might need to:
Your doctor will give you specific instructions to help you prepare.
You or your child will need a detailed medical evaluation to determine if cochlear implants are a good option. A doctor will conduct an evaluation that may include:
Your surgeon will make a cut (incision) behind your ear, and form a small hole in the portion of skull bone (mastoid) where the internal device rests.
Your surgeon will then create a small opening in the cochlea in order to thread the electrode of the internal device. The skin incision is stitched closed so that the internal device is under your skin.
You or your child might experience:
Most people feel well enough to return home the day of surgery or the next day.
An audiologist won't turn on (activate) the cochlear implants for about two to six weeks after your surgery — to give the surgery site time to heal.
To activate the cochlear implant, an audiologist will:
Rehabilitation involves training your brain to understand sounds heard through the cochlear implant. Speech and everyday environmental noises will sound different from what you remember.
Your brain needs time to recognize what these sounds mean. This process is ongoing and is best achieved by wearing the speech processor continuously during waking hours.
Results of cochlear implant surgery vary from person to person. Factors that can affect the outcomes of cochlear implantation include the age when hearing was lost, and the length of time between hearing loss and the cochlear implant surgery.
For children, the best results generally occur with getting a cochlear implant at a young age.
For adults, the best results are generally associated with a shorter period of profound hearing loss before cochlear implantation. Adults with little or no experience with sound tend to benefit less from cochlear implants.
Some predicted outcomes may include:
Last Updated Mar 24, 2020