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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:
Are cochlear implants right for you?
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
Are cochlear implants right for your child?
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
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.
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.
At this 2-hour appointment, we adjust and fine-tune your device. We also might evaluate your auditory abilities.
This 1-hour appointment includes continued programming of your device. We may also check your auditory abilities.
Expect to spend 1-2 hours with your audiologist on programming and auditory testing.
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.
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.
Informal meeting prior to surgery with a cochlear implant user
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
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.
Cochlear implant locations
We offer specialized cochlear implant care at UW Health clinics in Madison and Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, and Rockford, Illinois.