The implantation step by step
If you suffer from severe hearing loss and find communication difficult in spite of using a hearing aid, you may be a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant. The first step towards implantation is to consult a specialist Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT) doctor.
Cochlear implantation – from suitability assessment to hearing
1. The cochlear implantation centre
If the ENT specialist considers you a suitable candidate for cochlear implantation, you will be referred to a cochlear implant centre. Here a multi-disciplinary medical team carries out the pre-operative assessment that consists of a number of tests and evaluations.
The implantation team normally consists of surgeons, ENT specialists, audiologists, speech therapists and psychologists. They test your hearing, general health, language skills and assess your motivation for and expectations of the implantation.
2. Implant surgery
If you are still considered suitable, you undergo surgery to insert the internal part of the implant system. This surgical procedure takes around two hours and is carried out under local or general anesthetic. The surgeon makes an insertion behind the ear to insert the cochlear implant under the skin. Then the implant’s receiver is attached and the electrode array is carefully inserted into the cochlea. Before completing surgery, the implant is checked to ensure it is working properly.
Following surgery, healing takes three to five weeks. At the end of this period, you will have a small scar behind your ear. This is normally covered by hair. During this time, you can take part in normal activities but you will not be able to hear until the external part of the system is connected.
4. Attaching the sound processor
To be able to hear sound, the sound processor needs to be attached. This is done after the recovery process. Using dedicated fitting software, your audiologist adapts the sound processor to your hearing needs and the settings for each electrode are adjusted so hearing is clear and comfortable. This process varies for each individual but you can expect it to take some time for your brain to adapt to this new way of hearing.
5. Ongoing fittings
To get the best result from your sound processor, you will need to spend time on fitting sessions, speech therapy and rehabilitation
programs. Children will require support from their families and others during this process. Once the sound processor settings are considered stable, an annual check is sufficient for fine tuning the sound processor.