Cochlear Implants

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. You may be a candidate for cochlear implant placement if:

  • You’re unable to understand speech with a standard hearing aid.
  • You communicate orally, without relying on sign language.
  • You have no conditions or health problems that would make the surgery high-risk.

How a Cochlear Implant Works

A cochlear implant works by electrically stimulating nerves inside your inner ear. The implants we use at Emory have two main components:

  • A sound processor and transmitter system that’s worn behind your ear and held in place with a magnet or carried in a pocket, belt pouch or harness.
  • An implanted receiver and electrode system that’s placed under the skin behind your ear.

The sound processor and transmitter system includes a microphone that receives the acoustic signal—the sound—and sends it to the processor. The processor then changes the acoustic signal to an electric signal, and sends it to the implanted receiver and electrode system via radio frequency transmission.

Unlike a hearing aid, which amplifies sound, a cochlear implant directly stimulates the auditory nerve sending the signals to the brain. It is important to know that hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing through the ears. It may take you some time to learn, but it can allow you to understand speech and recognize warning signals and other kinds of sound.

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.

You’ll need to avoid electromagnetic fields. You may have noticed signs warning people with medical devices about the presence of such magnetic fields. Make sure you heed these warnings.

You’ll also need to avoid certain medical procedures that produce magnetic fields, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Even being near an MRI unit could dislodge your implant or damage its internal magnet. Some implants are approved for certain types of MRI studies under controlled conditions.

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.
  • Speech pathologists who diagnose and treat communication disorders or difficulties.
  • A nurse clinician who’s trained and experienced in caring for cochlear implant patients.

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.

Make an Appointment

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.

How Can We Help You Today?

Need help? We will be delighted to assist you today, so please call us at 404-778-7777. We look forward to hearing from you.