What is a Cochlear Implant?

A cochlear implant is an electrode that is placed in the inner ear (cochlea) to bypass the damaged hair cells. 

It is made of two parts. 

  • The external portion includes the microphone, speech processor and transmitting coil. Sounds in the environment are picked up by the microphone and filtered by the speech processor into coded signals. The coded signals are then given to the transmitting coil, which sends it through the skin to the implanted receiver. 
  • The receiver electrically activates the electrode array, which in turn stimulates the auditory nerve. Nerve impulses are sent to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.


The cochlear implant was invented about 30 years ago to help severe to profoundly deaf persons communicate more easily. Thanks to extensive research and evolving technology, the device has become a valuable option for persons with significant hearing loss. Cochlear implants are recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American Academy of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) as an approved medical procedure for children. They were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the mid-1980’s and are covered by insurance policies, Medicare and Vocational Rehabilitation. There are now more than 60,000 individuals worldwide who have received cochlear implants.

Cochlear implant evaluation

Before receiving an implant, each child is carefully evaluated by our Hearing Loss Program team. Children’s has an extensive cochlear implant evaluation process to determine if an implant is right for your child.

Receiving a cochlear implant

Getting the implant is just the beginning. Adjusting to the hearing and speaking world can be difficult. That's why at Children's, we offer a comprehensive approach to cochlear implantation. Our team includes otolaryngologists (ear, nose and throat doctors), audiologists (hearing specialists), speech-language pathologists, social workers and child psychiatrists. 

After implant surgery, our team will work with your child to help him receive maximum benefit from his improved hearing and to provide the best foundation for the development of spoken language skills

Therapy is family-focused, with parent participation and home program activities included in every session. The Children's cochlear implant team uses an auditory-based approach, which emphasizes listening as the primary mode to develop spoken language skills. Each child is evaluated on an ongoing basis to determine if he needs other treatment in addition to the implant.