Frequently Asked Questions

Will a cochlear implant restore normal hearing for those whom are deaf?

A cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing. It is a communication tool but not a "cure" for deafness. Cochlear implants can provide more access to speech information than previously received from a hearing aid. Practice with the implant, supplemented with listening therapy are effective means to obtain the maximum benefit from this device.

Is cochlear implant surgery risky or dangerous?

Risk is inherent in any surgery requiring general anesthesia. However, the surgical risks for cochlear implantation are minimal and the majority of patients require only a one-day hospital stay and have no surgical complications.

Will additional surgeries be needed to take advantage of improvements in technology as they become available?

The surgically implanted unit is designed to last a lifetime. The externally worn speech processor, which is responsible for coding the speech and sending the information to the internal unit, is software-dependent and can readily accept new and improved speech-coding technology as it becomes available. Additionally, the speech processor may be upgraded as technology improves.

Do children outgrow the internal device requiring an additional surgery after their bodies grow?

The cochlea is fully formed at birth and the skull structures have achieved almost full growth by the age of two. The electrode array is designed to accommodate the skull growth in children.

Is it better to wait for new technology to become available before getting a cochlear implant?

The design of the surgically implanted receiver and electrode array has changed relatively little during the history of cochlear implants. In contrast, the speech coding strategies, which are responsible for delivering the signal to the internal unit and are stored in the externally worn speech processor, have changed significantly in recent history. The speech processor is designed to accept new strategies when available. It is always best to receive your cochlear implant sooner rather than later as there is a learning curve associated with the device, and duration of deafness can have a profound impact on the patient's performance over time.

Is it true that Implant users can only identify environmental noises, not speech?

Cochlear implants provide a wide range of sound information and performance on speech perception testing does vary among individuals; however, with time and appropriate rehabilitation, most users understand more speech than they did with their hearing aids. Also, many are able to communicate by regular telephone and enjoy music!

Can implant users swim, shower, or participate in sports?

When NOT wearing the external equipment, users can swim, shower, and participate in any number of water activities; not all devices are compatible with water exposure although some devices are. The only restriction placed on implant users relates to skydiving and scuba diving as the significant air-pressure changes encountered in these activities is not advisable. Participation in all other athletic pursuits is unrestricted though protective head gear is always wise.

Are cochlear implants considered new and experimental?

Cochlear implants have been around since the 1970's and several devices are currently FDA-approved for use in children and adults.

How much benefit will a cochlear implant provide?

The degree of benefit from a cochlear implant, including speech comprehension and music appreciation, varies from person to person. Your cochlear implant team will counsel you on how your length of hearing loss, experience with hearing aids, cause of hearing loss and other relevant factors affect your prognosis. However, motivation, realistic expectations and following through with recommendations will have a positive effect on the progress and benefit you receive.

Will I/my child hear and understand speech right away with a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant does not sound like “normal” hearing. Although most people will detect sounds right away with the cochlear implant, it will take time for someone who lost their hearing to make sense out of the new sounds and speech heard with a cochlear implant. Likewise, for a child born with significant hearing loss, time will be needed to learn sounds and speech and to begin to talk. Using the device all waking hours, keeping all appointments and engaging in listening therapy (aural rehabilitation) will promote progress with the cochlear implant.