Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
A cochlear implant is a bionic ear. Rather than send sound to your ear like a hearing aid, the cochlear implant sends sound directly to your nerves of the inner ear. It helps you if who have the greatest amount of hearing loss when hearing aids aren’t able to make sounds loud and clear enough. Sometimes, if you have normal hearing in one ear but are deaf in the other, a cochlear implant in your deaf ear may help, too.
Cochlear implants have two parts: (1) an external sound processor worn behind the ear or on the head, and (2) a surgically implanted stimulator that sends sounds directly to the hearing nerve in the inner ear. The two parts connect across the skin using radio waves and are held together with magnets. Only the outside part has the battery, so that it can be replaced or recharged.
Who is a Candidate for Cochlear Implants?
Cochlear implants may be considered for adults and children with severe problems detecting sound and understanding speech in both ears, to the point where hearing aids are no longer beneficial.
An evaluation for cochlear implants typically includes a CT or MRI scan of the ear. Additional tests may be ordered for children who were born deaf.
Children born without the hearing nerve and are deaf may not be candidates for cochlear implants. In these specific situations, the patient may instead be a candidate for auditory brainstem implantation.
Cochlear implant candidates are evaluated by an ear surgeon, an audiologist and sometimes a speech-pathologist and a social worker throughout their course of treatment.
The care team at Mass. Eye and Ear is comprised of pediatric and adult skull base surgeons, otologists, audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
Types of Cochlear Implants
There are three cochlear implant manufacturers available in the US:
We support all of them, and will work with you to find the brand that best suits your needs.
An electroacoustic, or “hybrid” cochlear implant sends high-frequency bionic sounds, using acoustic sounds for the low frequencies.
Please note: Many health insurance companies pay for aspects of these devices, therefore, we have a Device Coordinator on staff who will work with you to determine what is/is not covered after our multidisciplinary evaluation and recommendation. In general, the “medically necessary” parts and procedures are covered for people who meet candidacy criteria, but other features, such as those for connectivity and convenience, may not be.