Cochlear Implant Surgery

If you have severe hearing loss, a standard hearing aid may not be enough. But don’t give up. A cochlear implant may be the answer. These small—but complex—hearing devices have helped thousands of people worldwide with nerve deafness.

Emory’s board-certified ear surgeons, also known as otologists and neurotologists, are leaders in cochlear implant placement and research. We can assess your needs and tell you whether you could benefit from this proven technology.

How a Cochlear Implant Works

A cochlear implant works by stimulating nerves electrically inside your inner ear. All cochlear implants have two main components:

  • An internal, implanted receiver and electrode system placed under your scalp, on top of the skull, behind your ear.
  • An outside sound processor (microphone) that sits on or near the ear, connected via magnet

The sound processor is a microphone that picks up sounds and sends it to the internal receiver, connected by a magnet. The internal electrode array that is implanted into the cochlea (hearing organ) receives the sound information and stimulates the auditory nerve, sending the sound to the brain.

A cochlear implant is different than a hearing aid. It stimulates the auditory nerve directly, sending the signals to your brain. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing through the ears and will take months of listening practice before the brain can organize the sound into recognizable speech. We’ll work with you to help you understand speech and recognize warning signals and other sounds.

Cochlear Implant Surgery

Placing a cochlear implant requires surgery performed under general anesthesia, which means you’ll be asleep while your surgeon implants the device. The surgery will take two to four hours and is usually done as an outpatient procedure, allowing you to go home the same day. Prior to your surgery, your doctor will talk with you about your specific care plan and whether outpatient surgery or an overnight stay is right for you.

You’ll probably be able to return to your normal activities in a week or less.

Possible Risks

Cochlear implant surgery is quite safe, but all surgery has some risks. Our team will discuss the risks with you and answer any questions prior to your surgery.

After the Surgery

Our cochlear implant team will make sure you know what to expect and how to take care of yourself after surgery. And, we’re here for you if you have questions or concerns after you go home.

Our audiology team will work closely with you to correctly program the sound processor. We’ll also provide training and counseling to help you get the best results and make the best use of your cochlear implant.

Caring for Your Cochlear Implant

You’ll need to take some care to protect your cochlear implant from damage. The speech processor has a warranty. Once it expires, you’ll be responsible for any repair or replacement costs. Some implant companies offer an extended service plan.

Contact sports, car accidents, slip and falls, or other impacts near the ear can damage the internal component. This may mean you’ll need a new implant and more surgery. Make sure you wear a helmet or protective headgear during contact sports or any activity that could cause a fall, such as bicycling, skating, or skiing.

Internal cochlear implant components usually won’t set off metal detectors, and airport security will not damage the internal component. But it’s best to remove the external processor and headset and pass it around the security checkpoint. Carry a cochlear implant identification card, or get a letter from the cochlear implant team before traveling.

Turn to A Team of Proven Leaders

Your Emory cochlear implant team will include:

  • A neurotologist to perform your surgery. Neurotologists are otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors, or ENTs) who’ve completed an additional two years of specialty training.
  • Audiologists who diagnose and treat hearing and balance problems.

At Emory—the premier academic medical center in the Atlanta area—our board-certified neurotologists are specially trained to do cochlear implant surgery. We are recognized leaders in clinical research on cochlear implants, focusing on surgical outcomes and recovery—and are committed to building and applying the latest knowledge to give you the best immediate and long-term results.

Request an Appointment with Emory Audiology

To make an appointment, please call 404-778-3381.

Did You Know?

You can use our patient portals for secure 24/7 access to your health information and interact with your healthcare team. Emory’s otolaryngologists, including our cochlear implant specialists, use the BLUE portal. Find out more about Emory’s patient portals.