Cochlear implantation step by step

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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, which consists of a number of tests and evaluations. 
The implantation team normally comprises surgeons, ENT specialists, audiologists, speech therapists and psychologists. They test your hearing, general health and language skills, and they assess your motivation for and expectations of the implantation.

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2. Implant surgery

If you are still considered suitable, you undergo surgery to insert the internal part of the implant system. The surgical procedure takes around two hours and is carried out under local or general anaesthetic. The surgeon makes an insertion behind the ear in order to place the cochlear implant under the skin. Next, the implant receiver is attached and the electrode array is carefully inserted into the cochlea. Before completing surgery, the implant is checked to ensure that it is working properly.

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3. Recovery

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.

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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 to make hearing clear and comfortable. The 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.

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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 programmes. Children will require support from their families and others during this process. Once the sound processor settings are considered stable, an annual check-up is sufficient for fine-tuning the sound processor.