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Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implant: surgically implanted hearing device used to help those with severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears

  • Does not restore normal hearing

  • Sends electrical pulses to the brain which replicate the sounds in the environment

  • Gives a mechanical sense of sound

  • Requires a lot of therapy following surgery before the listener can understand what they hear through the implant

  • Designed for patients with sensorineural hearing loss

What is a Cochlear Implant
Cochlear Implants, what is outside the head?

A processor which is responsible for collecting the sound around the person and a magnet that sends the sound to the internal component.


On-the-Ear Processor

  • The processor sits on the ear, like a hearing aid and is attached to the magnet by a small cable

  • Advantage: easier to tell if sound is coming from the front or back due to directional microphones on the processor

  • Disadvantage: processor sits on ear all of the time


Off-the-Ear Processor

  • The processor and magnet are one contained piece which sit on the head, held by the strength of the magnet

  • Advantage: nothing sitting on the ear

  • Disadvantage: difficult to tell if the sound is coming from the front or the back because there are no sets of directional microphones

Cochlear Implants, what is inside the head?
internal CI_edited.jpg

A receiver magnet, which takes in the sound sent by the processor and an electrode array, which is placed inside the cochlea of the inner ear. The electrode array contains electrical contacts which stimulate the hearing never fibers, sending electrical sound signals to the brain.  

Cochlear Implant Surgery
  • Cochlear implants require surgery to place the internal device under the skin and inside the cochlea

  • This procedure is performed under general anesthesia

  • Surgery performed by a Pediatric Ears-Nose-Throat Physician, also known as a Pediatric Otolaryngologist 

  • Surgery typically takes 1.5 – 2 hours 

  • Patients usually need 2 – 4 weeks to let the incision heal before turning on the implant 

Cochlear Implant Activation
  • After the body heals from the surgery for 2 – 4 weeks, it is time to turn on or activate the cochlear implant with your audiologist

  • During this appointment, the audiologist begins to fine tune the volume of the device across different pitches so that it is comfortable for the child

  • This appointment typically brings up all sorts of emotions for the patients. Some children are scared of hearing sound for the first time, others find it funny, and some are overjoyed. There is no “right” way to react to hearing sound through an implant.

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