Cochlear implants are prosthetic devices that provide hearing for persons with severe to profound hearing loss who receive little or no benefit from hearing aids. Tiny wires (electrodes) are surgically inserted into the cochlea (an organ of hearing). The cochlear implant converts sound energy into electrical signals and stimulates the auditory nerve.

How a Cochlear Implant Works

A cochlear implant goes on both the outside and inside of your head. These parts work together to help you notice sounds.

External, or outside, parts:

You will wear a device that looks like a hearing aid behind your ear. It has a microphone that picks up sounds and sends them to a speech processor. The speech processor turns the sounds into a digital signal.

The speech processor sends the signal to a transmitter. This device goes on your head, behind your ear. The transmitter sends the signal to a receiver under your skin. A magnet holds the two together.

Internal, or inside, parts:

The receiver is under the skin behind your ear. It sends the signals to electrodes in your inner ear, or cochlea. The electrodes trigger the auditory nerve. This lets your brain notice the incoming sounds.

Who Can Get a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear implants will not work for everyone. They may work for adults who:

  • Have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears
  • Have found that hearing aids do not help them
  • Have no other medical problems that would make surgery risky
  • Want to be able to listen, speak, and speechread
  • Started to talk before they lost their hearing

Children can also get cochlear implants. They may work best for children who:

  • Have profound hearing loss in both ears
  • Were not helped by hearing aids
  • Have no medical problems that would make surgery risky
  • Will be able to get treatment to work on hearing skills

If your child is old enough, it is helpful if he/she can:

  • Be a part of all the steps in the process
  • Understand what he/she needs to do to use the cochlear implants
  • Understand what the implants can and cannot do for her hearing
  • Be ready to work on his/her hearing and speech skills

It is important that your child has your support. This will help him have success with the cochlear implants.