How is a cochlear implantation carried out?
A cochlear implantation consists of these five steps: Tests and evaluations, the surgery, a recovery period, activation of the implant and fitting, speech therapy and rehabilitation.
Tests and evaluations
If you are considered as a candidate for a cochlear implant, you will be referred to a cochlear implant centre. Here, a team of ENT specialists, audiologists, speech therapists and psychologists will carry out the pre-operative assessment, which consists of a series of tests and evaluations.
The team test your hearing, your general health and language skills and assess your motivation and expectations for the implantation.
If the CI team considers you suitable for a cochlear implant, the next step will be surgery to implant the internal part of the cochlear implant system. The standard surgical procedure takes around one to two hours and is in the majority of the cases carried out under general anaesthetic. The surgeon makes an incision behind the ear in order to place the cochlear implant under the skin. Next, the implant receiver is positioned and the electrode array is carefully inserted into the cochlea. Before completing the surgery, the implant is checked to ensure that it is working properly.
Following surgery, healing and recovery normally takes three to five weeks. At the end of this period, you will have a small scar behind your ear. This is normally covered by hair. During this time, you can take part in normal activities, but you will not be able to hear until the external part of the system is connected.
Attaching the sound processor / audio processor
To be able to hear sound, the external sound processor / audio processor needs to be attached and activated. This is done after the recovery process. The audiologist adapts the sound processor / audio processor to your hearing needs using specialised fitting software and the settings for each electrode on the array are adjusted to make hearing clear and comfortable. The process varies for each individual, but you can expect it to take some time for your brain to adapt to this new way of hearing.
Fitting, speech therapy and rehabilitation
To get the best result from the cochlear implant system, you will need to spend time on fitting sessions, speech therapy and rehabilitation programs. Children will also require support from their families and others during this process.
Once the sound processor / audio processor settings are considered stable, regular check-ups are sufficient for fine-tuning the sound processor / audio processor.