What is a cochlear implant?


A cochlear implant is a device that restores a sense of sound for people with severe to profound hearing loss. The implant system consists of the internal implant and externally worn equipment.  The implant is surgically placed under the skin with an electrode array inserted into the inner ear.  The external equipment is worn similarly to a hearing aid and includes a microphone, sound processor, and transmitter.




1. The microphone picks up sound from the environment.

The sound processor is a tiny computer worn over the ear that takes the sound and converts it into digital information.

2. The transmitter receives signals from the sound processor and sends them to the internal implant.

3. The implant converts the signal from the transmitter to electric impulses.  The electrode array sends the impulses to the auditory nerve.

4. The auditory nerve sends the signals to the brain.



Cochlear implants are different from conventional amplification, such as hearing aids.  Using state-of-the-art technology, a cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of an ear and sends electrical signals directly to the brain via the auditory nerve.  By bypassing the damaged part of the ear, the cochlear implant is able to provide sound detection across all pitches improving signal clarity.


The use of a cochlear implant alone, bilaterally, or bimodally with a hearing aid in the non-implanted ear, improves speech perception significantly allowing recipients to become more active participants in their daily activities.


Who is a cochlear implant candidate?


A cochlear implant candidate experiences severe to profound hearing loss bilaterally, and/or significantly impaired speech recognition.  Expanding indications for cochlear implantation include ski-slope hearing loss and single-sided deafness.  If hearing aids are providing limited benefit, an evaluation to determine candidacy may be in order.


A cochlear implant candidacy evaluation includes medical evaluation, audiological testing with and without amplification, speech perception testing, and CT scan.  Speech-language evaluation and psychological evaluation may also be required.  A meningitis vaccination is required of all cochlear implant recipients.


Cochlear implants are approved by the FDA for adults and children as young as 12 months of age.


Austin ENT Clinic offers all FDA approved cochlear implant devices, including electroacoustic stimulation (hybrid) cochlear implants.


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