Cochlear Implants

What is a Cochlear Implant?According to the FDA, 2011, “A cochlear Implant is an implanted hearing device, designed to produce useful hearing sensations to a person with severe to profound nerve deafness by electronically stimulating nerves inside the inner ear.

Common Questions about Cochlear Implants:
Does it cure Deafness?
No, a child who gets a cochlear implant has not been cured of their hearing loss and does not hear like others who do not have a hearing loss. At best, a person with a cochlear implant stills functions like a hard of hearing person.What can a cochlear implant do for a child?The range of communication outcomes for a child who gets a cochlear implant(s) is quite varied and depends on many, many factors. According to the FDA, 2011, “Hearing ranges from near normal ability to understand speech to no hearing benefit at all.” Most people fall somewhere in between. To receive the maximum benefit possible from an implant requires an intensive amount of therapy and work.Can anyone tell you exactly how well your child will do with a cochlear implant?No, there are not any tests that can precisely identify your child’s outcome. Children, who lose their hearing after they have developed speech and language skills and have not been deaf for a long period of time, typically achieve near normal speech and hearing. Children who are born deaf who progress the farthest, are usually those who are implanted at a young age, have no other disabilities and who receive intensive, aggressive and regular therapy from a provider who is trained and experienced in dealing with cochlear implants. Their families are typically able to carry over therapy techniques into their daily routine.How do you get a cochlear implant?A family cannot just decide they want one for their child and get it. A child must go through a candidacy evaluation, and if approved, go through surgery to implant the device. Then the most critical part of getting an implant is participating in the intensive and aggressive therapy.Who does the candidacy evaluation?A hospital or doctor’s office that does implant surgery will have a cochlear implant team which should consist of doctors, audiologists, speech and language therapists, a social worker, and very importantly someone from early intervention services or from the child’s school. A very conscientious and thorough team will also include a member of the deaf community.What do you have to do to be a candidate?For medical approval a child must be one year of age or older, unless approved by the FDA; have tried hearing aids to no benefit; have no medical reasons why they cannot have surgery; and have a cochlea. If a child is approved medically the rest of the team will look at other factors and the entire team will decide whether or not they feel the child is an appropriate candidate.What factors other than medical ones do a cochlear implant team look for?This varies by different implant teams but overall they are looking to see if other disabilities exist, if the child can participate in the intensive and aggressive therapy required, the family is committed to this therapy, there are providers available who are trained and experienced in providing these therapies, that a strong school program is available, and that the family has realistic expectations of the outcome.What are realistic expectations?This is different for every child depending on circumstances and should be discussed in depth with implant team members. A family who thinks the surgery is going to make everything better and their child will immediately start talking is not being realistic. An implant is not a cure and to get the most out of an implant requires a huge amount of time and effort on the part of the family.Tips for family involvement:
  • Families should communicate often with their child’s therapists;
  • learn how to do therapy activities in the home in a natural way;
  • share information with other family members;
  • keep information in a notebook or some organized way;
  • encourage their child’s teacher and therapist to communicate;
  • give permission for teachers and therapists to communicate about the child’s progress and needs

Issues that families must address with the school program:
  • Families should Involve their child’s early intervention provider or teacher in the candidacy process;
  • they should work with teachers and providers to obtain the most information possible for programming;
  • they should inform teachers and providers when the child gets a new program;
  • they should ensure coordination of goals and objectives occurs between private therapy staff and school staff


1. Cochlear Implants (FDA)

2. The Cochlear Implant Education Center

3. Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing


5. Cochlear Americas

400 Inverness Drive Suite 400

Englewood, CO 80112303 790-9010

6. Advanced Bionics

Mann Biomedical Park

25129 Rye Canyon Loop

Valencia, CA.91355800678-575

7. Med-El

222 East Highway 54

Beta Building Suite 180

Durham, NC 27713888 633-3524

8. Cochlear Implant Myths & Realities

Downloadable Version

Sound Clips of a Cochlear Implant

Did you ever wonder what a cochlear implant sounds like? The sound clip below is an example of how it sounds. The clip starts at the least number of channels to higher numbers and finally to how it sounds to the human ear.

Documents Dealing with Cochlear Implants