Cochlear Implants

Generally speaking, cochlear implants are a means of surgical amplification for patients with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss. There are approximately 500,000 patients in the United States with severe-to-profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants are only recommended after the individual has tried the most powerful and appropriately fit hearing aids with no sufficient listening benefit. Cochlear implants are devices that are permanently implanted into the inner ear.

Cochlear implantation is a surgical procedure performed by ear surgeons, or otologists. Cochlear implants have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since the early 1980s, and the advances and improvements in the technology have been amazing. The FDA and the American Medical Association (AMA) recognize cochlear implants as safe and effective treatment for severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss. Most insurance programs pay (at least partly) for cochlear implantation. Your audiologist, cochlear implant surgeon, and their appropriate office staff are experienced at managing insurance issues.

Appropriately-identified adults as well as children with severe to profound hearing loss (starting at age 12 months) can be implanted. Research demonstrates that the earlier a child is implanted, the better the long-term results will be with respect to speech and language development. After surgery, ongoing rehabilitation is necessary, as the child must learn to associate the sound signals with everyday sounds.

Regarding adults with profound hearing loss, research suggests that adults who receive cochlear implants are less lonely, have less social anxiety, are more independent, have increased social and interpersonal skills, and have better overall hearing.

Cochlear implants are used for the patient who cannot benefit from hearing aids. The cochlear implant is a device used to bypass the damaged organ of hearing and convert sound into electrical impulses that can directly stimulate the hearing nerve. The implant has an external portion worn either on the ear like a hearing aid or on the body. This device, called the sound processor, is comprised of a microphone, power compartment, and external coil. The internal portion, which is typically made of ceramic or silicone, consists of an electrode array and must be surgically implanted. The surgical procedure involves the placement of an internal receiver beneath the skin behind the ear, and the electrode array, which is inserted into the organ of hearing, or the cochlea. The electrical signals are programmed by the audiologist to maximize speech perception and are controlled by the speech processor. The brain interprets these electrical impulses as sound. Again, not all patients are surgical candidates, and not all cochlear implant recipients receive the same benefit.

For more information, visit:

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

U.S. Food and Drug Administration