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Inarie Badenhorst

Specialist Audiologist

Is a Cochlear Implant major surgery?

Posted on 2021-11-26 09:25:00 in General

No. You'd be happy to learn that the simple answer to this question is: no! Surgery is involved, but it certainly wouldn't be classed as 'major' surgery. Curious?  Let's have a closer look at this fascinating technology...

What is a Cochlear Implant?

Cochlear implants are hearing devices which help us hear when conventional hearing aids do not offer sufficient benefits anymore. 

How does a Cochlear Implant work?

Where hearing aids amplify sounds enough to be detected by a damaged inner ear, cochlear implants bypass the damaged portions in our inner ears and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants consist of two parts: an internal part: surgically implanted, and an external part that fits behind the ear, like a hearing aid.  The external part of the device consists of a microphone and a sound processor, and the internal part of a receiver (collecting information from the sound processor) and the electrode array which is implanted into the inner ear.

Who should consider a Cochlear Implant?

NICE guidelines (March 2019) advise us that children or adults with a severe to profound hearing loss, who are not gaining sufficient benefit from their hearing aids, might be eligible for a cochlear implant.  Age is not taken into account when considering candidacy.  The youngest recipients are babies of only a few months old and patients can continue to be considered well into their 90s and beyond.

Cochlear Implant Surgery Eligibility

Audiologists, GPs or Ear, Nose & Throat Consultants can make a referral to your closest implant centre.  There is a detailed assessment and investigation process to determine whether you will be a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant. If this is considered the most appropriate management for your hearing loss, your surgery will then be scheduled.

Cochlear Implant Surgery

The operation usually takes anything from 2 to 4 hours and is carried out under general anaesthetic.  It may involve one night's stay in hospital and apart from the usual low risks associated with any surgery, most consultants consider this routine surgery.  In special cases - with associated risks to general anaesthetics - the surgery has even been done under local anaesthetic.

Life with a cochlear implant

About 3-4 weeks after the surgery, your device will be "switched on".  The experience of this varies from person to person and the sound patients hear is often very different than what they might be used to.  You might have to visit your implant centre a few times to fine tune your device. It will take a bit of time and practise to learn how to listen with your new implant, but most CI users notice immediate awareness of familiar sounds and many go on doing complex listening tasks - like talking on the phone and enjoying music - with little or no difficulty.

Cochlear Implant Surgery Statistics

Only about 7% of people in the UK who are eligible for cochlear implants, actually receive these devices.  The main reason for this sad statistic, is the lack of knowledge around this revolutionary technology.

If you think you might be a candidate for a cochlear implant or even if you are just curious about the technology, please speak to your audiologist, contact us or request some advice.

If you are having issues with your hearing, you may need an assistive listening device. View our Hearing Accessories to see if there is a device that can provide you with the extra amplification you may need.