How to prepare for a cochlear implant surgery

Cochlear Implant Surgery

Preparation needed before a cochlear implant surgery

Before undergoing a cochlear implant surgery, one will need a detailed medical examination to determine whether he / she is eligible for a cochlear implant. An ENT specialist will carry out the following examinations:

  • Tests to evaluate one’s hearing, speech, and sometimes balance
  • Physical test to evaluate one’s health and anatomy
  • MRI or CT imaging tests of one’s skull to evaluate the condition of the cochlea and inner ear structure

Once it is determined through the tests that a cochlear implant is a good option for one’s hearing loss, then he / she will work with an ENT specialist and an audiologist to figure out which cochlear implant is best for their needs. The cochlear implant options include:

  • An internal cochlear implant that has an external unit which needs to be attached to the side of one’s head. The external unit consists of a speech processor, microphone, and transmitter in one device. It can be charged by one when needed.
  • An internal cochlear implant with an external sound processor that fits behind one’s ear. The transmitter will be attached to the side of one’s head.

As cochlear implant surgery is done under general anesthesia, one will be in a sleep-like state during the entire procedure. 

  • Discontinue consuming certain medications or supplements for a specified duration
  • Abstain from consuming food or beverages for a specified duration

One’s ENT surgeon will provide detailed instructions to assist him / her in preparing for the procedure.

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Procedure of the cochlear implant surgery

The procedure involves the following steps:

  • A small incision is made behind one’s ear by the ENT specialist.
  • A small hole is created in one’s mastoid bone to access the cochlea.
  • The electrode of the internal device is threaded through the opening in the cochlea.
  • The skin incision is stitched closed, placing the internal device beneath the skin.
  • An internal processor is positioned in a pocket between the muscle and bone behind the ear. It receives information from an external speech processor worn outside the skin.
  • After the incisions are closed, one is moved to the recovery area for post-anesthesia care.
  • One is closely monitored for a few hours and then discharged to go home and rest.
  • Initially, hearing on the side of the implant may be different, and the device is not immediately programmed.
  • The incisions need time to heal before the device is programmed, usually a few weeks after surgery.
  • During this healing period, a hearing aid cannot be used in the ear that underwent surgery.

Risks related to cochlear implant

Normally a cochlear implant surgery is considered to be safe. But the potential risks related to a cochlear implant are:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Changes in taste
  • Facial palsy
  • Ringing in the ear (Tinnitus)
  • Infection on the spot of the surgery
  • Trouble with balance
  • Meningitis
  • Surgery can be needed to remove an implant due to infection
  • Surgery can be needed to fix a faulty implant
  • Cerebrospinal fluid leak

Other potential complications

  • Removing the external component to bathe or swim
  • Recharging batteries
  • Using new batteries regularly
  • Losing the remaining natural ability to hear
  • Implant getting damaged while playing a sport
  • Implant getting damaged due to an accident
  • Extensive rehabilitation to help one learn how to use the implant
  • Failure of device

It is essential to carefully follow post-operative care instructions, regularly attend follow-up appointments, and report any concerns to one’s healthcare provider promptly. With proper management and support, most complications can be effectively addressed, allowing one to continue enjoying the benefits of their cochlear implant.

Cochlear Implant Basics

What are cochlear implants? How do they work?
Understand the basics of Cochlear implants.

Hearing Loss

How does hearing work? What is hearing loss and what are it’s types?

Diagnosis of hearing loss
Cochlear Implants for adults

Preparing for Surgery

Learn everything about preparing for the surgery.