If you believe you may be a candidate for a cochlear implant you must first see an Audiologist for a hearing test to determine if your hearing loss my qualify. If the audiologist thinks you may benefit from a cochlear implant, they will refer you to a cochlear implant center. At the cochlear implant center you will have to go through audiological testing, psychological testing, a medical exam, and imaging scans, such as an MRI and CT, to determine if you can benefit from a cochlear implant. The candidate will then receive counseling to make sure they understand the follow-up commitments required after the surgery. Counseling is also required for the performance, expectations, and limitations of the implant.
After the patient is deemed a cochlear implant candidate, they will undergo the surgery. The surgery is performed at a hospital under general anesthesia. The surgery typically takes between two to four hours to perform and patients usually spend one night in the hospital. After leaving the hospital the patient will not be able to hear yet. The internal component is implanted, but the surgical site must heal completely before the external component can be programmed and placed.
Four to six weeks after the surgery is when a patient can go back to the cochlear implant center to be fitted with the external processor. At this appointment the audiologist can now activate the cochlear implant and start mapping the processor to the patient’s specific needs. This appointment is usually an emotional time for the patient and family members because it may be the first time the patient will ever hear sound in their life or it may have been a number of years since hearing sound.
Many patients will need follow-up appointments over a few months to adjust the mapping after the first visit. For some patients an auditory training program is necessary to help the brain process the new sounds. These programs are important for people who have never experienced sound before. Routine visits should be made with the audiologists for programming of the processor and hearing tests.