The operation

The cochlear implant operation is performed under a general anaesthetic, which means the patient will be asleep.

This is what happens during the operation itself.

  • a small area of hair behind the ear may be shaved – this will grow back later
  • a cut is made behind the ear
  • a small bed is drilled in the bone to fit the implant
  • the electrode array is placed in the cochlea and is tested to make sure it is working
  • the opening in the skin is then sewn up using dissolvable stitches.

Antibiotics are given just before and for a day after surgery to reduce the chance of infection. Before going home, an X-ray is used to check the position of the implant.

The stay in hospital is usually just over night. It is advised that the adult does not attend work for two weeks following the operation. This may vary according to the adults individual work environment.

 After The Operation

Nucleus BTE speech processor,microphone and coil with image of internal partA cochlear implant is a sophisticated hearing aid which requires an operation. There are risks are associated with this as follows.

Infection is possible but antibiotics are given to reduce this.
Bleeding can occassionally occur with formation of a haematoma (blood clot) under the skin – during the operation every attempt is made to reduce this risk
Facial Palsy, which causes a weakness of one side of the face, rarely happens as the nerve function is monitored during surgery
Balance disturbance and tinnitus are problems that some patients already have – any balance problems or tinnitus related to surgery should soon settle
Device failure is uncommon, but if it occurs may require re-implantation of a new implant.

To-date we have not experienced any major complications during surgery or in the early post-operative phase.

 After Care

Can a cochlear implant really change your life? 60 adults receiving cochlear implants were asked to complete a questionnaire once before their implant and then one year afterwards to examine the impact on their lives. The results are interesting.

Chris PatientConfidence, relaxation and independence all show improvement from pre-implant to one year or more post- implant. Negative factors associated with deafness such as isolation and embarrassment show improvement in that these decrease post-implant.

In terms of speech perception as measured by nationally recognised test materials used pre- and post- implant, results show that speech perception with lip-reading improves greatly post-implant for most adults. Some adults are able to understand speech without the need for lip-reading.

Use of Cochlear Implant 94.5% of those responding to the questionnaire used their cochlear implant for eight or more hours a day and 5.5% use their cochlear implant for four to eight hours a day. None of the respondents use their cochlear implant for less than four hours a day.

Limitations to Use There are limitations on certain activities that could damage or move the implant eg rugby, boxing and squash. However, swimming is possible if external parts are removed.
There are other precautions to be aware of and users can find more information on the BCIG website at www.bcig.org.

Implants and Tinnitus A The degree of relief from tinnitus will depend on individual circumstances. However, many implant users find that the implant and the sounds it produces substantially mask the tinnitus, but this will depend on individual circumstances.