More Info on Cochlear Implants

What is a cochlear implant?

  • A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted device that provides people with a significant amount of hearing loss the perception of sounds. 
  • A cochlear implant has two parts:
  • Internal: One piece of the device is surgically implanted under the skin behind the ear. This piece contains a magnet and a tiny electrode array that is inserted into your cochlear. 
  • External: One piece of the device is worn outside the body behind the ear. This is called the speech processor. 
  • Both the internal and external pieces are needed for the cochlear implant to work. 

How does a cochlear implant work?

  • A cochlear implant is not a hearing aid– it does not make natural (acoustic) sounds louder. 
  • Instead, a cochlear implant turns acoustic sounds into electrical pulses that stimulate your auditory nerve. 
  • A cochlear implant user must learn how to code these electrical pulses to understand speech. This takes months to years of practice!

What is the process of getting a cochlear implant?

  • To get a cochlear implant, a person must meet certain criteria which supports that a cochlear implant may be a good option. 
  • These criteria typically include having a certain degree of hearing loss, having ear structures that support a cochlear implant, and understanding the potential outcomes. 
  • A person will usually undergo multiple medical appointments to evaluate the former criteria. The decision to get a cochlear implant is made by the individual and their care team. 
  • If a person decides to get a cochlear implant, they will have surgery to place the device. Following surgery, they must attend multiple medical appointments to make their cochlear implant work the best for them. 

Common questions

Does a cochlear implant restore hearing or “cure” hearing loss?

  • No. Hearing cannot be restored one a person has hearing loss. Instead, a cochlear implant provides the perception of sounds in a new way. 

How old you have to be to get a cochlear implant?

  • In the United Sates, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows children as young as 9 months old to be implanted. 

Do I, or my child, qualify for a cochlear implant?

  • Any questions regarding whether a cochlear implant is right for you, or someone in your family, should be directed to your doctor. 

Learn more about Seattle Children’s Cochlear Implant Program here