A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that features both an implant and an external speech processor worn behind the ear. It is traditionally used to help people with severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss.
However, more recent advances in technology (e.g., hybrid cochlear implants) can now provide the same benefits — greater access to sound, with improved clarity — for adults and children whose hearing loss is not severe-to-profound but don't benefit from hearing aids.
Do I Need a Cochlear Implant?
You may be a good candidate for a cochlear implant in the following cases:
- You have sensorineural hearing loss and experience little to no benefit from conventional hearing aids.
- Oral communication is important or essential for your work or home life.
- You don't have any significant medical issues that would make implant surgery too risky.
- You are willing and able to commit to both the evaluation and implant processes (see below).
The degree of hearing after implantation varies from person to person.
While it's important to note that cochlear implants cannot fully restore your ability to hear, recipients generally experience restored sensation of sound awareness and the ability to recognize normal, everyday sounds in their environments. Most recipients also have a significant improvement in word understanding, which they don't experience with hearing aids.
Types of Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implant technology is rapidly advancing, and the Rush Auditory Implant team is committed to innovation. There are several companies that manufacture FDA-approved cochlear implants. We work closely with the device manufacturers to ensure our patients have access to all of the latest technology.
Your audiologist will help you learn more about the different types of cochlear implants and which may be most appropriate for your specific type and degree of hearing loss.
What is the Process for Getting a Cochlear Implant?
We want to ensure that a cochlear implant is an appropriate choice for your communication needs, and that you receive maximum benefit and enjoyment from it.
The neurotologist and audiologists with the Rush Auditory Implant Program are highly experienced at finding solutions to communication problems. Our goal is to provide you with comprehensive, compassionate care tailored to meet your unique needs.
To reach this goal, the process for getting an implant includes the following steps:
- A hearing evaluation that has been conducted at Rush within the last six months. This evaluation will determine if you should pursue cochlear implant evaluation and testing.
- Referral to a neurotologist to discuss surgical and medical considerations.
- The cochlear implant evaluation, as described below.
What Does a Cochlear Implant Evaluation Involve?
The cochlear implant evaluation provides our team with the information we need to fit you with the appropriate device, and educates you and your family about what to expect before, during and after implantation.
This evaluation is typically split into two sessions and includes the following:
- A comprehensive three to four hour evaluation of your auditory system and hearing loss.
- Comprehensive assessment of the impact of your hearing loss on communication.
- Possible referrals to other professionals to further evaluate your communication needs.
- Evaluation with clinic hearing aids programmed to your loss and verified using real ear measurements.
- Evaluation of your speech perception with amplification.
Education and Resources
- Information about the auditory system and your hearing loss.
- Information about cochlear implants and how they work.
- Resources for meeting other cochlear implant users and sources of additional information.
- Discussion of the rehabilitation process.
- Counseling about your expectations, potential benefits and limitations of the implants.
- If appropriate, referrals to other professionals, including a psychologist, speech pathologist and/or educational specialist, who can help with your adjustment to the device.
What to Expect During and After Cochlear Implant Surgery
If you decide to receive a cochlear implant at Rush, your care team will go over all of the following details with you, including explaining the surgical procedure in detail. Our staff is here to provide support throughout the process, from answering questions to helping address insurance issues.
- Implantation surgery is performed in a hospital operating room under general anesthesia.
- It is often performed on an outpatient basis; most people are able to go home the day of surgery.
- The procedure typically lasts two hours.
- The surgeon implants the device through a small incision in the area behind the ear.
- After the procedure, the surgeon places a dressing on the incision, which is removed the next day at home.
Initial and Follow-up Programming
- You will typically have a follow-up visit two weeks after surgery.
- Around four weeks after surgery, you will come to Rush for the initial session of stimulation with the implant:
- Successful use of a cochlear implant requires the device to be programmed and fine-tuned specifically for the individual by an audiologist using a special computer system.
- The session will last approximately two hours.
- You will need additional sessions to program the device every two weeks for the first couple of months.
- After programming is complete, you will have annual follow-up sessions to ensure optimal performance.
Rush Excellence in Cochlear Implants
- Expertise and experience: Auditory implant specialists have extensive experience and provide expert consultation for adults and children with hearing loss. This includes efforts to fit you with the right cochlear implant and optimize your ability to communicate.
- A patient-centered approach: Our team is committed to providing outstanding care tailored to meet your needs and to ensuring that every visit goes as smoothly as possible. Our staff provides support for you and your family throughout the process, from answering questions to helping address insurance issues.
- High satisfaction from our patients: The Section of Communication Disorders and Sciences/Audiology receives consistently high patient satisfaction scores, according to Press Ganey data.
- Pediatric cochlear implants: The Rush team also specializes in pediatric cochlear implants, recognizing the unique and important needs of children struggling with hearing loss.
- Nationally recognized care: The ENT program at Rush University Medical Center is ranked among the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.