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HealthInfo West Coast-Te Tai Poutini

Cochlear implant

A cochlear implant is a small device that helps people to hear. It is used when hearing aids don't work for people who are severely deaf.

An otolaryngologist (ot-o-lar-in-gol-o-gist), also called an ORL specialist, can perform cochlear implant surgery in adults and children. ORL specialists are also known as ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialists. Surgery can be done privately or in the public health system.

Surgery for a cochlear implant usually takes about two hours, and is done under a general anaesthetic (you are asleep). A few weeks after the surgery the speech processor part of the cochlear implant will be turned on. It can take a few weeks or months for people to get used to hearing. Specially trained audiologists and speech language therapists (called habilitationists) tune the device and help people learn how to listen.

In the South Island, publicly funded cochlear implants are done by the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP). You need to be referred to this service by an ENT specialist, audiologist or adviser on deaf children.

After surgery

After a cochlear implant operation you:

All surgery has some risks. The risks with cochlear implant surgery include:

It is important to see a doctor quickly if you have any increasing pain, or swelling around your wound or ear, or if you feel feverish.

If you or your child has a cochlear implant, there are two medical tests or procedures to avoid, as they can damage the device. They are MRI and monopolar diathermy (a current used to stop bleeding during surgery). Always let your doctor or surgeon know that you or your child has a cochlear implant and should not have an MRI or monopolar diathermy. If you doctor needs further advice, they can talk to a cochlear specialist.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Otolaryngology, Canterbury DHB. Page created December 2015.

See also:

Hearing in babies and children

Hearing in adults


Page reference: 143101

Review key: HICOI-143101