8 Tips to Prepare for a Cochlear Implant

  • woman showing cochlear implant
    Surgery for Cochlear Implant in Babies, Older Children and Adults
    Now that you’ve made the decision for you or your child to have cochlear implant surgery, it’s important to understand how to prepare for the procedure and what to expect. Since the implants first became available in the 1980s, over 41,000 adults and 26,000 children in the United States have received at least one. Research shows the costs of the surgery and implant for children are far outweighed by the benefits and the money saved in extra services, education and adaptation. Here are some tips on what to expect and how to take steps to a successful outcome.

  • Female doctor helping male patient with hearing aid in doctors office
    1. Expect a full assessment.
    Before you are approved for a cochlear implant, you must undergo evaluations by your ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor (an otolaryngologist). Tests usually include a full examination of your ear, including imaging with a CT scan and/or MRI, blood tests, hearing tests, a hearing aid trial, a physical examination, and a psychological test to see how you will likely cope with having the implant. These tests are meant to provide you with the best chances of success by making sure a cochlear implant is the right choice.

  • doctor showing patient a model of ear
    2. Ask questions about the device and the procedure.
    There are many questions to ask before any surgery, such as when you must stop eating the night before, when you should arrive at the hospital, and so on. But questions directly related to cochlear implant surgery may include: What type of cochlear implant will I have? Where will the incision be? Will you shave my head? What complications should I watch for? What restrictions do I have after surgery? How much pain will there be? How long is the recovery? When do I come for my first follow-up appointment? Who do I call if there are problems? It’s a good idea to create a list of these and other questions to ask your doctor.

  • Close-up of woman's hand holding health insurance card
    3. Find out how much your insurance covers.
    Costs for cochlear implants include not just the surgery, but also the device, its activation, follow-up appointments, and audiology and speech therapy. Discuss with your doctor’s office what documentation you need to request approval and then reach out to your insurance company to find out how much of the procedure and device it covers. Speak with your doctor’s office if there are financing issues as they may be able to guide you through the insurance steps if you have trouble.

  • Female doctor using digital tablet in consultation
    4. Preparing for cochlear implant surgery in an adult is simple.
    Before your surgery, tell your doctor about any medications, supplements or minerals you take, even over-the-counter products. If you take prescription medications, ask your surgeon if you must stop taking any and if so, when. Be sure to ask when you should resume taking them after the procedure. Since this type of surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis, arrange to have someone take you home afterward. Do not drink or eat anything before your surgery according to your instructions. If you are allowed certain medications, take them with a small sip of water.

  • boy signing the word 'family' in American Sign Language, reading book with family
    5. Preparing your child for a cochlear implant may involve play time.
    The cochlear implant team will work with you and your child to prepare for surgery. Team members can answer questions and offer suggestions for your child. Toys related to the surgery are often useful in helping prepare younger children, so are games and books. Meeting up with other families who have children with implants can provide you and your child an opportunity to observe and to ask more questions. Children also must have a physical examination to ensure they are healthy and vaccinations must be up-to-date as well. (An implant increases the risk of bacterial meningitis, so patients of any age should be immunized at least two weeks prior to the surgery date.)

  • patient using response button during hearing test
    6. Activating the sound processor.
    A few weeks after your surgery, an audiologist will activate and adjust your device, and help you become familiar with the processor and microphone. You will have several follow-up appointments for the first two years for device tune-ups or recalibration, as well as hearing and speech tests. Once the processor is turned on, you will start hearing sound. At this point, it is important to understand the first sounds you hear may not be what you expect. Your brain needs time to adapt to the new way of processing sound.

  • portrait of smiling senior woman by lake
    7. Hearing accuracy for adults varies by individual.
    Most adults who receive a cochlear implant had hearing before, so they already can speak and understand oral language. The devices help so they can do this again, but the systems differ by how accurately they ‘recognize’ words and sentences, from 35% to 80%. Working with an audiologist can help increase hearing accuracy. For adults who had little or no hearing, the cochlear implant may not help with word recognition, but it can help the wearer recognize environmental sounds and it may help their ability to lip read. If they can speak, the implant may help refine their pronunciation.

  • Speech Therapist Interacting with child
    8. Success rates of cochlear implants for children depend on follow-up care.
    There are no statistics for how well children overall do after they’ve received a cochlear implant. However, research does show children who are good candidates for the device and who follow up with medical, audiology and speech therapy appointments do quite well. Early studies show children fitted with cochlear implants at a very young age tended to have better speech development and sound perception than did children who depended on hearing aids to learn how to speak.

8 Tips to Prepare for Cochlear Implant Surgery

About The Author

Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN, has been writing health information for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience writing about health issues like sepsis, cancer, mental health issues, and women’s health. She is also author of the book Just the Right Dose: Your Smart Guide to Prescription Medications and How to Take Them Safely.
  1. Cochlear Implants. Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools. NIH Fact Sheet. https://report.nih.gov/nihfactsheets/ViewFactSheet.aspx?csid=83
  2. Outcomes of Cochlear Implantation in Adults. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/policy/tr2004-00041/#sec1.8
  3. Outcomes of Cochlear Implantation in Children. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/policy/tr2004-00041/#sec1.9
  4. Cochlear Implants in Children. American Academy of Audiology. https://www.audiology.org/publications-resources/document-library/cochlear-implants-children
  5. Before, During, & After Implant Surgery. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/CochlearImplants/ucm062899.htm
  6. Cochlear Implant Surgery | Preparing for Surgery. Boston Children’s Hospital. http://www.childrenshospital.org/Centers-and-Services/Programs/A-_-E/cochlear-implant-program/new-patient-resources/preparing-for-surgery
  7. Use of Vaccines to Prevent Meningitis in Persons with Cochlear Implants. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/mening/hcp/dis-cochlear-gen.html

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Last Review Date: 2021 May 11
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