Cochlear Implants

Cochlear Implants might be considered an option when patients no longer benefit from hearing aids. If you use hearing aid amplification and still have trouble hearing, ask your audiologist about cochlear implants.

Cochlear implants are not hearing aids; they are totally different. Cochlear implants are a surgical placed system that bypasses the damaged inner ear and deliver electrical stimulation directly to the hearing nerve. Cochlear implant recipients work with a team that includes an audiologist, an ear surgeon, a speech-language pathologist, and other rehabilitation specialists. It takes time and effort to learn to listen with a cochlear implant, and everyone learns at a different rate. In general, it takes a few months to get used to the sounds of a cochlear implant.

Cochlear implants have two major parts: one internal and one external. The internal component is implanted by the surgeon. The external component is fit and programmed by your audiologist a month or so after your cochlear implant surgery. The external component looks similar to a behind-the-ear hearing aid with a small round coil attached to it. The internal component is located under the skin and is not visible.

Cochlear implantation is usually an out-patient procedure, and most people go home the same day as the surgery. As technology has improved, so has performance. Most cochlear implant users understand speech very well, although there is a wide range of performance possibilities. Cochlear implant users generally can use the telephone, and some enjoy music. The cochlear implant team will help you learn more about reasonable expectations with a cochlear implant.

Most private insurance carriers, as well as Medicare and state Medicaid programs, pay some costs associated with cochlear implants. Check with your policy or local agency for more details. If you need help with insurance questions, please be sure to ask your cochlear implant team.

—Materials obtained from the American Academy of Audiology website (2009).