A cochlear implant is a device which restores some hearing to individuals who have a severe to profound hearing loss. A cochlear implant consists of internal and external components. The internal component, also known as the receiver/stimulator, is inserted during an operation which lasts approximately 2 hours. The external component, known as the speech processor, allows the internal component to receive sound and is generally fit 3-4 weeks after surgery.
Click here for a demonstration of how a cochlear implant changes sound into electrical stimulation and allows the deaf to hear sound.
People are usually referred for a cochlear implant assessment by their GP, ENT consultant, or other healthcare professional. First visits will consist of hearing testing and information gathering. The team will be able to give the patient an indication about whether a cochlear implant is the right option for them or their child.
In general, cochlear implants are considered for those patients who have a significant sensorineural hearing loss (ie, nerve deafness) for whom hearing aids are not beneficial. Candidacy for each person will be decided on an individual basis and each patient will be counselled about cochlear implants and their limitations and potential benefits. There will be plenty of opportunities for patients to ask questions and become familiar with the procedure before surgery takes place.
For more specific information about candidacy for an implant, please click on the appropriate link: Adults, Adolescents, Paediatrics (link to pre-operative visits section for each)
Surgery for an implant is considered routine and the side effects are limited. Patients and parents will be fully advised of the risks of surgery prior to giving consent and every opportunity will be given for patients and their families to ask questions.
In general, implant surgery lasts about two hours. Most patients are admitted as day cases but some patients may be kept in the hospital overnight for observation and usually go home the next day. Patients are advised to stay out of work or school for approximately two weeks after surgery. The risks of surgery are similar to any type of ear surgery and will be discussed fully with the patient/parents before the surgery takes place.
The external parts of the cochlear implant will not be fitted for about 3-4 weeks after surgery to allow time for the scar to heal. Patients will be able to hear sound through the implant when the external components are fitted, but their ability to understand what is heard will be limited at first. This will change considerably over the first weeks, months and even years of use. Patients will require frequent programming changes and therapy during the first months of use. The post-operative follow-up is very different for adults and children. Please click on the links for information about follow-up for adults, adolescents and adults.(link to each section on follow-up care)
Is this a new or experimental technology?
What does a cochlear implant sound like?
Who may receive a cochlear implant?
Are there different types of cochlear implants?
- Cochlear Corporation www.cochlear.com
- Advanced Bionics Corporation www.advancedbionics.com
- Med El www.medel.com
Each of the manufacturers has its own design of internal receiver/stimulator and speak processor. There are many different types of speech processors that have been available throughout the years for cochlear implants; many of the differences are related to changes in technology. Currently, ear level processors are available for all three manufacturers. Although there is no conclusive evidence that patients perform better with one manufacturer over another, there are differences in the way the speech processors look, how they function and the options that are provided. The clinicians will advise patients which is the most appropriate device in their case.