A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically inserted into a person’s inner ear – the cochlea – to help them hear better. The implant stimulates the hearing nerve and provides sound signals directly to the brain. Cochlear implants are also known as ‘bionic ears’.
Why is the procedure performed?
The surgery is done to allow people with certain types of deafness to hear better. The cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the inner ear.
It is suitable for people who:
- have severe or profound hearing loss
- have hearing (auditory) nerves that work
- can’t overcome their hearing loss with hearing aids
The implant doesn’t replace normal hearing. After the operation, you or your child will need training to learn how to recognise sounds, which may have changed.
For children born deaf or with severe hearing loss, having a cochlear implant fitted before the age of 18 months can be vital for developing normal language skills. The implants can be inserted into babies as young as one year old, allowing them to:
- hear and pick up language
- learn to speak
- communicate better
- attend mainstream school classes
How to prepare for the procedure
If you or your child are having a cochlear implant fitted, you will need to see a team of specialists. They might include:
- an ear, nose and throat surgeon (otolaryngologist)
- an audiologist
- a speech pathologist
- an occupational therapist
The specialist team will examine you or your child. Tests may include:
- specialist hearing tests
- speech and language assessment
- computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans
They might recommend a cochlear implant in one or both ears.
Before the procedure, you or your child might be advised to stop taking certain medicines.
Learn more about how to prepare for surgery here.