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Cochlear Implant: Symptoms, Classification, Diagnosis & Recovery

Cochlear implant is one of the several ways to treat hearing loss. It is an electronic device, a part of which lies on the cochlea (inner ear) and behind the ear that helps stimulate the nerve.

A cochlear implant is advised to a person suffering from complete deafness or partial hearing loss in one or both the ears. The device is used to bypass the usual or normal mechanism by which a person is able to hear external sounds.

Who requires cochlear implant?

Cochlear implant is typically suggested to patient with sensorineural hearing loss. This condition may arise when there is a damage to the tiny hair that are present on cochlea. These tiny hears catch the vibration of an external sound and transfer it to the auditory nerve, which then sends the signal to the part of brain responsible for hearing.

In cases of damaged cochlear hair, the vibrations are not picked up and no signal is sent to the auditory nerve. In such patients, a cochlear implant can help transmit the signal directly to the auditory nerve.

Components of Cochlear Implant

A typical cochlear implant consists of two parts – one is the stimulator, while the other one is a processor.

  • Stimulator: The receiver-stimulator component of the cochlear implant is placed under the skin with the help of a surgery. It helps stimulate the auditory nerve, which then sends signals to the brain.
  • Processor:The processor part is fixed behind the ear, just like a hearing aid. However, it is a bit larger than a typical hearing aid. This component helps process surrounding sounds and speech.

Cochlear Implant Surgery

Cochlear implant surgery takes anywhere between one to two hours and is typically conducted as an outpatient procedure. During the surgery, the surgeon first makes a small incision behind the ear to put the receiver under the skin. The receiver is then connected to electrodes that are placed in the inner ear.

The patient is sent back home after the surgery and is asked to return back after a gap of one or two weeks. This is when the second part of the cochlear implant – the processor – is connected. A microphone is placed behind the ear and the processor could be placed at the same location or somewhere else.

How does cochlear implant work?

In the presence of a sound, the processor and the microphone picks up the sound vibrations. The vibrations are converted into electrical impulses and sent to the receiver with the help of a transmitted that codes the signals. The signals are then passed on to the electrodes attached to the cochlea.

The electrodes further stimulate the auditory or cochlear nerve. The same nerve carries the signals to the brain and the sounds are finally recognized as a sound.

Cochlear Implant: Risks and Complications

Cochlear implant surgery is a safe procedure, however, it has certain risks and may result in a few complications in rare cases. Some of the possible risks and complications after cochlear implant surgery include:

  • Dizziness
  • Problem in balancing
  • Tinnitus or ringing ear
  • Fluid leakage around the brain
  • Nerve damage
  • Paralysis of the face
  • Altered sense of taste
  • Device failure
  • Infection of the brain (meningitis)


  • Increased hearing ability
  • Improved lifestyle


  • High cost
  • Sounds may not seem natural

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do cochlear implants cure deafness?

A: Cochlear implants should not be considered as a treatment option for the cure of deafness. It does not help cure deafness. It bypasses the damaged part of the ear to stimulate the auditory nerve directly. The signals are recognized by the brain as sound signals.

Q: How successful is a cochlear implant?

A: Cochlear implants are quite successful when it comes to temporary restoration of hearing. It is highly recommended in the case of children wherein hearing aids cannot be used to treat children with a severe hearing loss.

Q: Do cochlear implants require surgery?

A: The cochlear implants are fixed to the inner ear with the help of a surgery.

Q: What is the recovery time for a cochlear implant?

A: The scar heals within 7 to 10 days of the procedure. The surgeon turns on the device only after the incision has healed fully. This usually happens after 3 to six weeks of the surgery. A majority of patients are able to return back to their normal routine with two weeks.

Q: What are the risks of getting a cochlear implant?

A: The surgical risks associated with a cochlear implant are rare. They may include facial nerve weakness, device malfunction, infection, bleeding, tinnitus (ringing in the ear), poor hearing, and dizziness.