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HealthInfo Canterbury

Cochlear implant

Young woman with cochlear implant A cochlear (kok-lee-ah) 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.

The device has a microphone on your skin which picks up sounds and turns them into electrical signals.

The second part of the device is inside your skull and has a wire to your inner ear (cochlea). The electrical signal simulates your cochlea to send a sound message to your brain through your auditory (hearing) nerve.

Cochlear implants don't suit everyone with hearing loss. You or your child will need a full assessment with a specially trained audiologist (hearing expert), speech-language therapist and a surgeon called an otolaryngologist (ot-o-lar-in-jol-o-jist), previously called an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist, to decide if it is an option.

Surgery for a cochlear implant takes about two hours and is done under general anaesthetic (you are asleep).

A few weeks after the surgery the device is turned on. It can take weeks to months to get used to hearing, and you will need help from an audiologist and speech-language therapist.

You or your child may be able to get free treatment in the public system if you meet the criteria.

In the South Island, publicly funded cochlear implants are done by the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP).

ACC may fund the implant if the hearing loss was caused by an accident.

You can also choose to pay for a cochlear implant for yourself or your child in the private health system.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2020.

See also:

Hearing in babies and children

Hearing in adults


Page reference: 143101

Review key: HICOI-143101