Beaumont Hospital

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Cochlear Implant Surgery

What does the operation involve?

During the surgery, the surgeon implants the internal parts of the cochlear implant underneath the skin. The receiver/stimulator sits in the bone just behind the ear and the electrode array is inserted into the cochlea. The electrode array has been especially designed to be thin, tapered and flexible, so that it can slide into the cochlea without causing damage.

How long does the operation take and how long will I be in hospital?

The operation takes approx. 2-3 hours. The patient generally is admitted the day before the surgery date and spends 1-7 days in hospital.  This includes pre and post-op care. In some cases, adults are admitted on the day of the surgery.  Persons with a more involved medical history (e.g. diabetic, on autoimmune therapies, etc.) will be admitted a few days prior to the scheduled surgery date.  Recovery rates vary across individuals but most people report feeling well 24-48 hours after surgery.  Once released from hospital, children are usually at school and adults at work after 1-2 weeks.

Are there any risks?

The risks associated with cochlear implant surgery include:

  • Risks associated with the use of general anaesthetic, as for any surgery
  • Risks of inflammation, infection, disturbance or damage to the facial nerve
  • Stiffness or numbness around the ear
  • Disturbance of taste or balance
  • Possible changes in head noises (tinnitus)
  • Increased risk of meningitis*

*You will be advised to obtain vaccinations for meningitis prior to surgery as there have been some reports that patients with cochlear implants or inner ear malformations may have a higher risk of meningitis. The vaccinations reduce the risk

While it is important to be aware that these complications can occur, in practice there have been very few significant negative side effects reported worldwide for people receiving a cochlear implant.  These risks are the same as for any other surgery carried out in this area of the body.  The cochlear implant surgeon will discuss the risks with you in more detail before the surgery.

Once the implant is in, does it stay there for life?

The internal part of the CI system is designed to last one's lifetime.  However, it is possible that during one's lifetime, the implant will break down and need to be replaced.  If this is a concern you have please consult with a member of the team for more up to date and detailed information. 

Can the patients hear when they wake up after surgery?

Not yet! The surgeon has only fitted the internal parts of the device. There is a wait of 3-6 weeks after surgery, to allow any swelling or tenderness around the implant site to subside, before the external parts of the device can be fitted.

A training programme has been devised by the team to help you get the best from your cochlear  implant after the initial 'switch on'.  A commitment must be made by you to attend all appointments prior to and after cochlear implantation.

We are not able to predict how much you will be able to hear with your speech processor - at worst you may only get an awareness of sounds around you and some help with lip-reading.