How the Device Works

Using electrical signals, cochlear implants stimulate the inner ear directly. This system does not use the ear canal and middle ear structures. Because of their ability to stimulate the hearing nerves directly, cochlear implants often work even when hearing aids do not.

Who Can Benefit from the Cochlear Implant?

Adults and Teenagers

The candidacy for cochlear implantation is based on the lack of benefit from hearing aids and other specific hearing criteria measured with special hearing tests.

A CT or MRI is obtained to check for any anatomical problems that may prohibit implantation. The patient will need to be medically fit to undergo a 1.5-hour outpatient surgery.


The youngest age currently approved for cochlear implantation is one year old. Children can either be born with severe to profound hearing loss or may develop the condition over time. The hearing loss must be diagnosed as soon as possible so that proper treatment can begin. Good hearing function from an early age is critical to a child’s language development. Children with hearing loss that cannot be corrected otherwise can be fitted with hearing aids. Cochlear implantation can be considered for children who do not develop their speaking and listening abilities on time.

Benefits of Cochlear Implant

Cochlear implants allow users to hear “better” over time with continued use of the implant. They can also improve understanding of speech, increase the ability to hear noises and even improve directional sense. A year after the initial implantation, the hearing function is usually much better than it was before. The procedure is also short and requires minimal downtime. 

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Who Is a Candidate?

To determine if you’re a candidate for cochlear implants, you’ll need to undergo a full ear, nose, and throat evaluation in addition to audiogram and imaging such as an MRI or a CT. Based on the medical evaluation, the treatment options for your hearing loss will be presented. Those who are possible candidates for cochlear implants will also need to have another special hearing test done to see if they are candidates for the procedure.

Adults and Teenagers

Patients who lost their hearing after language acquisition can typically be helped with the cochlear implant at any age, but the hearing function with the cochlear implant is better if the surgery is performed early after the hearing loss occurs.

Patients who lost their hearing before language acquisition and primarily use sign language usually do not benefit greatly from cochlear implantation.


As in adults, children who lost their hearing after language acquisition typically do very well with cochlear implantation. Children born with no significant hearing or who lost their hearing at an earlier age can still achieve a very good hearing and language result if the cochlear implantation is performed soon after the hearing loss occurs. Ideally, children who are born with little to no hearing are evaluated, diagnosed, and treated with hearing aids during the first year of life, and those who are candidates for the cochlear implant will be considered for the implantation at, or soon after, the age of 12 months. 

Surgery & After Care

The procedure is an outpatient surgery that takes about an hour and a half. It is performed under general anesthesia and uses an incision that is created behind the ear. The surgery consists of removing part of the mastoid bone and placing the cochlear implant.

The wound behind the ear usually heals very quickly. It will require simple cleaning and the application of antibiotic ointment. Regular activities can be resumed the next day. Patients are typically seen three weeks after surgery to ensure that the wound is healing correctly.

Additional after-care points include:

  • There will be a follow-up visit 4 weeks after surgery
  • Device activation happens 2-4 weeks after surgery
  • Programming of the device is based on the individual auditory perceptions 
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Cochlear Implants FAQ's

How does the device work?

The cochlear implant system contains a computer that processes sound waves into electrical signals. There is an external part of the device that is worn behind the ear that contains this computer. The device needs to be programmed and customized for the patient for optimal results.

When does programming occur?

The first programming session typically occurs four weeks after surgery and is called the initial “hook-up”. After this session, the patient will start to use the device for hearing. There will be several programming sessions (over the first few months of implant use) to adjust the implant programming. This will ensure optimal results.

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