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Cochlear implant

Kuhinga taringa

Young woman with cochlear implantA cochlear (kok-lee-ah) implant is a small device that helps people hear. It's used when hearing aids do not work for people who have severe hearing loss.

The device has a microphone behind your ear that picks up sounds and turns them into electrical signals.

The second part of the device is inside your skull and has an electrode (wire) going to your inner ear (cochlea). The electrical signal simulates your auditory (hearing) nerve to send nerve impulses to the auditory centres in your brain.

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

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

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

If you meet the criteria, you or your tamaiti may be able to get free treatment in the public health system.

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

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

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

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2023.


See also:

Hearing loss in children

Hearing loss in adults

Page reference: 143101

Review key: HICOI-143101