Cochlear Implant

The Cochlear Implant Program at the Children's Hospital of Michigan is a multidisciplinary team servicing pediatric cochlear implant recipients since 1987. We currently manage over 300 cochlear implant recipients. The team is comprised of a team of specialists including pediatric otolaryngologists, pediatric audiologists, pediatric speech pathologists and social workers.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device, which functions to directly stimulate the hearing nerve. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the normal hearing pathway, and provide direct stimulation to the nerve. For patients with severe-profound hearing loss who does not benefit from traditional hearing aids, cochlear implantation is often the only option to enable hearing. 

Who is a cochlear implant candidate?

If your child has severe-profound hearing loss and is not getting adequate benefit from their hearing aids, they may be a cochlear implant candidate. There are many other factors that are important when determining which children would benefit from an implant, but if you think your child may be a candidate, discuss it with your ENT doctor at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Meet the team:

Audiology – Your child’s audiologist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan will manage the child’s hearing loss with hearing aids, monitor their hearing and work with you throughout the process. Following cochlear implantation, the audiologist will work with your child to program, or “map” the implant.

Otolaryngology (ENT)- Your child’s otolaryngologist, or ENT doctor, at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, will oversee your child’s care throughout the process. They will perform the cochlear implant surgery, and work closely with all other members of the team both before and after surgery to ensure your child’s success.

Speech and language pathologist – Your child’s speech and language pathologist at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan will perform a comprehensive speech evaluation prior to the cochlear implant, and determine the potential benefits of a cochlear implant to their language skills. After surgery, your child will receive speech therapy services with a focus on aural-oral communication to help ensure their success with the implant. 

Social worker – The social worker will meet with you prior to the cochlear implant surgery, to ensure that expectations are realistic and address any potential barriers to your child’s success with the implants.

YOU – Perhaps the most critical part of the team is you, the parent or caregiver of the child getting an implant. It is extremely important for children receiving implants to have a supportive environment at home, who are dedicated to helping ensure their child’s success!


What is the ideal age for cochlear implant surgery?

For children who are born with severe-profound hearing loss, the ideal age for surgery is between 1-2 years of age. When implanted early (before age 2), most children are able to develop normal speech and language skills. However, children who are implanted at an older age will still get benefit from the implants as well, but are less likely to develop normal speech and language.

For children with progressive hearing loss, the age of implantation will depend on the progression of the hearing loss. They may become a candidate for cochlear implant once the hearing loss progresses to a point where they are no longer getting adequate benefit from their hearing aids, which may occur at any age.

What is involved in the procedure?

The operation surgery is performed under general anesthesia and typically takes 3 - 4 hours per ear. A child usually stays in the hospital one night after the surgery. 

During the surgery, an incision is made behind the ear exposing the area where the implant will be placed. The surgeon will place the receiver/stimulator in this small area under the skin. The electrode array is inserted into your child's inner ear, and the receiver/stimulator is fixed in place. Electrical recordings are made to show that the electrodes are providing stimulation. Then the area is reconstructed.

What are the risks of cochlear implant surgery?

Although the surgical risks of cochlear implantation are very rare, facial nerve paralysis, loss of taste sensation, dizziness or ringing in the ear may occur.

It is also important to understand the surgery typically removes any ability the individual may have had to hear in the ear where the implant is placed. Hearing can be enhanced with a conventional hearing aid in the opposite ear when appropriate.

How many cochlear implants are performed per year at Children’s Hospital of Michigan?

This varies, but we typically perform approximately 50 implants per year.

Do you typically implant one ear or both ears?

This depends on the child’s hearing loss. In children who were born with severe-profound hearing loss, who are being implanted at a young age, we typically implant both ears. In patients where the benefit of the implant is less clear, or if the hearing loss is progressive and they are still using the hearing aids with some minimal amount of benefit, we may choose to implant only one ear. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis, by the otolaryngologist, audiologist and families.

Will my child still need to wear a hearing aid after they have a cochlear implant?

They will not have to wear a traditional hearing aid; however in order for the cochlear implant to work, there is an external processor which needs to be worn. This attaches to the internal device using a magnet.

Will my child have normal speech and language development after surgery?

This depends on many factors! For otherwise healthy children who are born with severe-profound hearing loss and implanted early, we often see normal speech and language development. For children with other medical factors or who are implanted later in life, speech and language outcomes may vary; your speech and language pathologist will be able to give you a good assessment of what to expect depending on your child’s specific circumstances.

How long is the recovery from the surgery?

Most children are admitted to the hospital for one night after the surgery, and are discharged home the following day. There will be an incision behind the ear. Expect some pain/discomfort for about a week following the surgery. Total recovery time is approximately 2 weeks, and the implant will be “activated” about one month after surgery.


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