by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is implanted during surgery. It helps provide hearing to people who have a certain type of hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is usually caused by damage or a defect in the inner ear. The implants can directly stimulate the auditory nerve to send information to the brain.
Cochlear implants have 3 parts:
Reasons for Procedure
Cochlear implants provide a sense of sound for adults and children with profound hearing loss. They are designed for people whose hearing does not improve with surgical correction or the use of a hearing aid. Cochlear implants will not restore or create normal hearing.
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Smoking may raise the risk of problems.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
There is a link between cochlear implants and bacterial meningitis. You should be up to date on pneumococcal, meningococcal, and haemophilus vaccines.
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of Procedure
There are 2 parts to the procedure:
How Long Will It Take?
About 1 and one-half to 2 hours for adults and up to 5 hours for children
Will It Hurt?
Pain and swelling are common in the first few days. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
Some people may be able to go home the same day. Other people may need to stay longer.
At the Care Center
The staff may give you pain medicine.
During your stay, the hospital staff will take steps to lower your risk of infection, such as:
There are also steps you can take to lower your risk of infection, such as:
It will take 4 to 6 weeks to fully heal. Physical activity may need to be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay return to work or school for a few weeks.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Academy of Audiology
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Cochlear Implant Awareness Foundation
Cochlear implants. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website. Available at: https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/cochlear-implant. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Cochlear implants. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website. Available at:
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Accessed December 2, 2020.
Cochlear implants. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/implants-and-prosthetics/cochlear-implants. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Cochlear implants. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/meniere-disease. Accessed December 2, 2020.
Lopez-Escamez JA, Carey J, et al; Classification Committee of the Barany Society, Japan Society for Equilibrium Research, European Academy of Otology and Neurotology (EAONO), Equilibrium Committee of the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS), Korean Balance Society. Diagnostic criteria for Menière's disease. J Vestib Res. 2015;25(1):1-7.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 4/20/2021