A cochlear implant is a small device surgically placed behind the ear that mimics the natural hearing function in those that are severely or profoundly hard of hearing. Cochlear Implants can even help those who have had limited benefit from regular hearing aids. Watch this video of Dr. Jack J. Wazen, MD, FACS, as he talks through the most frequently asked questions regarding cochlear implants and the procedure surrounding them.
Question: I have severe hearing loss, and was wondering, what is a cochlear implant?
Answer: A cochlear implant is a device that helps stimulate the inner ear and the nerve cells to recover hearing when patients have lost it to a severe degree.
Q: If I get a cochlear implant, will I lose the remaining hearing that I have?
A: Sometimes. Not always. Sometimes, we can preserve the hearing, even with a cochlear implant.
Q: Is it fully implantable? Will anything show?
A: Yes. There's an external part to it, called the processor, and there's an internal part, which would be buried under the skin.
Q: How long is the surgery, and would I have to stay overnight in the hospital?
A: This surgery is ambulatory, meaning you do not need to stay in the hospital. It takes about two hours to perform the surgery, and then you go to the recovery room for a couple of hours, and then you go home.
Q: Is it painful?
A: There's not much pain with this surgery.
Q: And is it covered by my insurance?
A: Cochlear implants are covered by most insurance plans.
Q: How long has this technology been available, and how many of these have you done?
A: This technology was introduced in the '80s, in the early '80s, but has significantly
improved as far as the quality of the sound processing and the results. Today's results are far superior to what we were seeing in the '80s. We've done hundreds and hundreds of these. So, we have a large experience.
Q: How successful is it?
A: It's very successful. We could safely say that anybody who gets an implant is going to do much better with the implant than with their previous hearing aid.
Q: And how long will it last? Would I have to have surgery again?
A: Usually not. Usually, any updates to the system are done through the processor, through the computer, and no further surgery would be necessary, unless unfortunately something happens internally to the implant electrode, that that could break. That's very rare.