Page header image

Cochlear Implant

________________________________________________________________________

KEY POINTS

  • A cochlear implant is an electronic device used to help with hearing when your child is deaf or almost deaf. Part of the cochlear implant sits behind your child’s ear and part of it is placed under the skin and into the ear during surgery.
  • About 4 to 6 weeks after the electrodes are placed in surgery and your child has healed, your healthcare provider will attach the outside part of the implant behind your child’s ear.
  • Your child will need ongoing visits and therapy to get the most benefit from the cochlear implant.

________________________________________________________________________

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is an electronic device used to help with hearing when your child is deaf or almost deaf. Part of the cochlear implant sits behind your child’s ear and part of it is placed under the skin and into your child’s ear during surgery.

It has 4 main parts:

  • A microphone that picks up sound
  • A speech processor that gathers the sounds heard by the microphone
  • A transmitter and receiver that turns processor signals into electric impulses
  • Electrodes that sends the impulses to the auditory (hearing) nerve in the ear

Usually you have a cochlear implant in just one ear, but some people have an implant in both ears.

When is it used?

A cochlear implant is used to treat a certain type of hearing loss called a sensorineural hearing loss. It bypasses the damaged parts of the inner ear (cochlea) and sends signals to the (acoustic) nerve that goes from the ear to the brain.

A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. It is used to give a deaf or nearly deaf person a chance to understand sounds or another person speaking.

Your child may benefit from a cochlear implant if your child:

  • Has a severe hearing loss in both ears
  • Is not getting help by using hearing aids
  • Is healthy enough for surgery
  • Can be active with ongoing medical visits and therapy after getting an implant along with help from parents and teachers

Your child’s healthcare provider will do testing to help decide if a cochlear implant is the right device to improve your child’s hearing.

Specially trained surgeons do these surgeries. A team of people to help your child before and after the surgery includes:

  • An audiologist who does hearing tests and other services
  • A psychologist to help your child adjust to the new device
  • A speech therapist to help your child with listening, understanding, and speaking
  • Your child’s primary care healthcare provider

Cochlear implants can be used in young children as soon as a hearing loss is found.

In addition to a physical exam, tests may include:

  • Hearing tests
  • MRI, which uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the inner ear and brain
  • CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to show detailed pictures of the inner ear and brain
  • Mental health evaluation

How do I prepare my child for this procedure?

  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has any food, medicine, or other allergies such as latex.
  • Your child may or may not need to take regular medicines the day of the surgery. Tell your child’s healthcare provider about all medicines and supplements that your child takes. Some products may increase your child’s risk of side effects. Ask your healthcare provider if your child needs to avoid taking any medicine or supplements before the surgery.
  • Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has an infection such as a cold.
  • Your child’s healthcare provider will tell you when your child should stop eating and drinking before the surgery. This helps to keep your child from vomiting during the surgery.
  • Follow any instructions your child’s healthcare provider may give you.
  • Ask any questions you have before the surgery. You should understand what your child’s healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your child’s healthcare and to give permission for tests or surgeries.

What happens during the procedure?

A cochlear implant is done at a specialty surgery center or hospital.

Your child will be given medicine called anesthesia to keep from feeling pain during the procedure. General anesthesia relaxes your child’s muscles and puts your child into a deep sleep.

Your child’s surgeon will place the electrodes under the skin and into your child’s inner ear.

Your child will be in the recovery area after surgery until ready to go home.

What happens after the procedure?

Often your child can go home on the same day as the surgery.

Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:

  • If there are activities your child should avoid and when your child can return to normal activities
  • How to take care of your child at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

About 4 to 6 weeks after the electrodes are placed and your child has healed, your child’s healthcare provider will attach the outside part of the implant behind your child’s ear. You and your child will work with the healthcare team to learn:

  • To take care of your child’s equipment
  • How your child will hear sounds and start to speak or improve speech

Some children may be hearing sound for the first time. Your child will need ongoing visits and therapy to get the most benefit from the cochlear implant.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • Problems with anesthesia
  • Infection or bleeding
  • Ongoing problems with hearing and speech

Ask your child’ s healthcare provider how these risks apply to your child. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2019.4 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2018-02-28
Last reviewed: 2018-02-09
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
Page footer image