Overview

Cochlear Implants

Northwestern Medicine provides comprehensive evaluations for adults who may benefit from cochlear implants. If you have severe hearing loss that can’t be corrected with hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be the answer.

Understanding cochlear implants

A cochlear implant is a medical device that bypasses damaged structures in the inner ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve to the brain, which translates the signals into sound. Cochlear implants have four main parts that help provide a sense of sound to patients who were previously deaf or hard of hearing. The main parts of a cochlear implant include:
  1. Microphone: Picks up sound
  2. Speech processor: Selects and arranges sounds from the microphone into speech
  3. Transmitter/Receiver/Stimulator: Converts speech sounds into electrical impulses to stimulate the auditory nerve
  4. Electrode array: Collects impulses from the stimulator and sends them to different parts of the auditory nerve

Hearing with a cochlear implant is different from natural hearing or hearing with the help of hearing aids.

Cochlear implant candidates

Cochlear implants can help patients with sensorineural hearing loss caused by malformations or malfunctions of the inner ear or patients for whom hearing aides are no longer working. Diagnostic tests include:

  • Hearing evaluation: Specialists evaluate hearing to assess the degree of hearing loss and determine if a cochlear implant would be an appropriate solution. The test simulates real-world conditions, such as:
    • Quiet and noisy environment
    • With and without the use of hearing aids
  • Consultation: Receive a comprehensive overview of cochlear implants, including:
    • Explanation of the procedure
    • Specific instructions
    • What to expect after surgery
    • Potential hearing outcomes
    • The best device options for your hearing loss

After cochlear implant surgery

Cochlear implant surgery is typically performed on an outpatient basis, which means you will be home that evening.

After you have healed, you will meet with your implant audiologist, who will program the cochlear implant and monitor your progress as you adjust to hearing again.

If necessary, you will meet with a speech language pathologist to maximize your own speech and understanding of everyday conversation.

At Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, a board-certified neurotologist, doctors of audiology and speech language pathologists offer a combination of advanced technology and caring attention.