Restoring your hearing for improved language and speech

If you or your child are living with significant hearing loss, a cochlear implant may help.

Cochlear implants can improve hearing for adults and children. The device works best for adults with moderate-to-profound hearing loss and children with severe-to-profound hearing loss.

About cochlear implants

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that is surgically implanted in your inner ear.

The implant sends sound to your auditory nerve. Your brain receives these signals from the nerve, allowing you to hear sounds.  A cochlear implant replaces the function of the inner ear but does not restore normal hearing.

Who can benefit:

Not everyone with hearing loss is a candidate for cochlear implants. Adults must meet certain criteria for a cochlear implant. You might qualify if you:

  • Are 18 years or older

  • Are committed to attending regular programming visits and aural rehabilitation sessions 

  • Are motivated to incorporate listening in daily communication

  • Do not benefit from a hearing aid or other prosthetic communication device 

  • Do not have a medical condition that puts you at high risk for surgery

  • Have moderate-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss 

  • Have no medical contraindications

The first step is to meet with your hearing care team for an evaluation. During this appointment you:

  • Complete a questionnaire about your expectations, auditory awareness and attitudes

  • Complete testing to evaluate your hearing and current hearing aid(s)

  • Meet with an audiologist and a surgeon

  • Review your medical history with your doctor

  • Talk with your doctor about the cochlear implant process

  • Undergo a physical examination

Children and families must also meet certain criteria for cochlear implants. Your child could be a good candidate for surgery if they:

  • Are 12 months of age or older

  • Are enrolled in an educational program that emphasizes auditory and verbal skills development 

  • Do not benefit from a hearing aid or prosthetic devices 

  • Do not have a medical condition that makes surgery high risk

  • Have no medical contraindications

  • Have severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears

In addition, you and your family must:

  • Commit to attending regular programming visits and aural (re)habilitation sessions

  • Demonstrate a clear motivation to function within a general community that depends on spoken communication

You and your child will meet with the hearing care team for an evaluation. There are several steps to determine if a cochlear implant is right for your child. Your child will undergo:

  • Audiological evaluation, including hearing exam, speech perception test and hearing aid testing

  • Medical evaluation to including a physical exam and imaging 

  • Speech and language evaluation

  • Psychological and social work visits

Treatment process

Understanding the cochlear implant process

Once your doctor approves your cochlear implants, your care team will schedule your surgery.

The implant procedure usually lasts between two and five hours. You’ll go home the same day or spend a night in the hospital. Your device is turned on four to six weeks after surgery.

What to expect after surgery

You will attend multiple post-operative appointments to activate and check that your cochlear implant works well.

  1. 01.

    You meet with your care team four to six weeks following surgery for about 3 hours. We examine the surgical site to make sure it is healed and then turn on your device and start initial programming.

  2. 02.
    Two-week evaluation

    At this 2-hour appointment, we adjust and fine-tune your device. We also might evaluate your auditory abilities.

  3. 03.
    One-month evaluation

    This 1-hour appointment includes continued programming of your device. We may also check your auditory abilities.

  4. 04.
    Six-month evaluation

    Expect to spend 1-2 hours with your audiologist on programming and auditory testing.

  5. 05.
    One year evaluation

    You spend 1-2 hours with your audiologist. We adjust and fine-tune your cochlear implant. We perform hearing tests. For children, we also evaluate speech and language.

  6. 06.

    Your child works closely with an audiologist to learn how to hear with the device.

Support and resources

Patient resources and support

Your cochlear implant team supports you before and after surgery. We make sure you get the support you need for successful hearing. We provide opportunities for education and support with other cochlear implant users.

Options include:

  • Educational seminars

  • Informal meeting prior to surgery with a cochlear implant user

  • Informational talks

  • Picnics and scheduled events

If your child received a cochlear implant and attends school, we work with you and the school staff. We educate teachers about cochlear implants to improve communication between teachers and your child.

Learn more about cochlear implants: 

Lexi’s remarkable story

Learn how a cochlear implant became music to Lexi’s ears.

Meet our team

An expert team by your side

The cochlear implant team at UW Health includes experts in audiology, surgery, speech pathology, social work and psychology.

Our providers


Cochlear implant locations

We offer specialized cochlear implant care at UW Health clinics in Madison and Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois.

Contact us to learn if cochlear implants are right for you

Contact us (608) 263-6190