What is cochlear implant surgery?
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help you hear. You may get one if you have severe or total hearing loss. The implant does the job of the damaged or absent nerve cells that in a normal ear make it possible to hear. A small device worn outside the ear turns on the implant.
Get all of the required vaccines at least 2 weeks before cochlear implant surgery.
Your doctor will make a cut (incision) behind your ear. Then the doctor will place the implant in the inner ear. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time. The implant may make a small bump under the skin behind your ear. Your hair may cover the scar, the bump, and the device worn outside your ear.
You will probably go home the same day as the surgery or the next day. Most people are able to go back to work and their normal routine in 1 or 2 weeks.
Your hearing will not change right after surgery. This does not happen until the implant is turned on (activated) 3 to 6 weeks later. This gives the ear time to heal.
A cochlear implant can help you understand speech and speak clearly. But it will not give you normal hearing. How well your implant works depends on many things. These include how long you have had hearing problems and how well sound signals travel to the brain through the auditory nerve. You may need to work with a speech therapist after surgery to learn how to make the most of your implant.
How do you prepare for surgery?
Surgery can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for surgery.
Preparing for surgery
- Get all of the required vaccines at least 2 weeks before your surgery.
- Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
- Understand exactly what surgery is planned, along with the risks, benefits, and other options.
- If you take a medicine that prevents blood clots, your doctor may tell you to stop taking it before your surgery. Or your doctor may tell you to keep taking it. (These medicines include aspirin and other blood thinners.) Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
- Tell your doctor ALL the medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal remedies you take. Some may increase the risk of problems during your surgery. Your doctor will tell you if you should stop taking any of them before the surgery and how soon to do it.
- Make sure your doctor and the hospital have a copy of your advance directive. If you don't have one, you may want to prepare one. It lets others know your health care wishes. It's a good thing to have before any type of surgery or procedure.
What happens on the day of surgery?
- Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking. If you don't, your surgery may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of surgery, take them with only a sip of water.
- Follow your doctor's instructions about when to bathe or shower before your surgery. Do not apply lotions, perfumes, deodorants, or nail polish.
- Take off all jewelry and piercings. And take out contact lenses, if you wear them.
At the hospital or surgery center
- Bring a picture ID.
- The area for surgery is often marked to make sure there are no errors.
- You will be kept comfortable and safe by your anesthesia provider. The anesthesia may make you sleep. Or it may just numb the area being worked on.
- The surgery will take 2 to 5 hours.
When should you call your doctor?
- You have questions or concerns.
- You don't understand how to prepare for your surgery.
- You become ill before the surgery (such as fever, flu, or a cold).
- You need to reschedule or have changed your mind about having the surgery.
Where can you learn more?
Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd
Enter F095 in the search box to learn more about "Cochlear Implant Surgery: Before Your Surgery".
Current as of: May 4, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Donald R. Mintz MD - Otolaryngology