What are Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are medical devices that bypass damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. They are surgically implanted to improve hearing in people with severe or profound hearing losses. They can create a range of sound, but do not replace normal hearing.

  • Cochlear implants are not indicated for all hard of hearing or deaf people. They are not recommended in people who function well with hearing aids.
  • Cochlear implants can be provided for children as young as 18 months old, as well as adults.
  • Cochlear implants can be in one ear or both (binaural)
  • To be considered for a cochlear implant, you will need to receive an evaluation by a physician and audiologist associated with a cochlear implant clinic.
  • Ideal candidates are motivated to work hard in their rehabilitation after surgery. It helps to have good family support and to live close to a clinic in order to conveniently make the follow-up trips for mapping and adjustments.
  • Adjustments (called "mapping") are an integral and essential part of cochlear implant rehabilitation. Mapping is done by trained audiologists who adjust the speech processor to help improve hearing.
  • Cochlear implant performance varies. People hear better over time with practice. It takes a while to get used to hearing sounds in a new way. Speech processors are computers worn as a behind-the-ear device similar in look to a behind-the-ear hearing aid.
  • Use of the phone after implementation varies among individuals. Some people plug into the speech processor directly. Others hold the phone up to the ear, while others are not able to use the phone comfortably after their implant.
  • Cochlear implants cost around $30,000. Cochlear implants are covered by most insurance plans. Medicare covers cochlear implants. Research shows that they improve the quality of life and are, therefore, cost-effective interventions.

A variety of assistive devices can be combined with cochlear implants to improve their effectiveness. For example, patch cords can connect speech processors to assistive listening devices. Also a directional hand-held microphone can be used to improve speech pick-up in noisy environment.