Cochlear Implants for Children

Scope: Cochlear Implantation in the Pediatric Population (birth–18 years) 

See the Hearing Loss (Newborn) Evidence Map, the Hearing Loss (Early Childhood) Evidence Map, and the Hearing Loss (School-Age) Evidence Map for summaries of the available research on this topic.    

A cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted, complex electronic prosthetic device that provides electrical stimulation directly to nerve fibers in the cochlea, bypassing damaged hair cells to deliver useful sound to an individual. A CI is made up of two components: an internal (implanted) device as well as an external sound processor. The sound processor (external) receives sound information, processes the sound signal, and transmits it to the electrodes in the cochlea (internal). These signals are then received by the auditory nerve and directed to the brain. In 2012, it was estimated that approximately 38,000 devices were implanted in children in the United States (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [NIDCD], 2016).

An interprofessional CI team may include an audiologist, otolaryngologist/otologist (implant surgeon), speech-language pathologist, psychologist/therapist, pediatrician, developmental specialist, occupational therapist, educator, social worker, geneticist, and/or neurologist. Depending on the child's individual situation, there may be a combination of service providers, both internal and external to the CI center. For example, the child may see a clinical audiologist at the CI center and see an educational audiologist at school. These collaborative, interprofessional teams work together on a continuous basis and engage in group decision making regarding assessment, treatment, progress monitoring, and treatment outcomes. The team agrees on a follow-up plan, which includes ongoing communication and information sharing throughout the process. See ASHA's resource on Interprofessional Education/Interprofessional Practice (IPE/IPP) for more information on team collaboration.

Other implantable and osseointegrated devices, such as bone conduction auditory implants, auditory brainstem implants, or middle ear implants, are not specifically covered in this page.

Content Disclaimer: The Practice Portal, ASHA policy documents, and guidelines contain information for use in all settings; however, members must consider all applicable local, state and federal requirements when applying the information in their specific work setting.