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Cochlear Implants

The scope of this page is cochlear implantation across the life span.


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

cochlear implant (CI) is a surgically implanted, electronic prosthetic device that provides electric stimulation directly to auditory nerve fibers in the cochlea. It effectively bypasses damaged inner ear hair cells to deliver a signal to the brain, which is then interpreted as sound. A CI consists of two components: an internal (implanted) device and an external sound processor. The sound processor (external) receives sound from a microphone, processes the digital sound signal, and transmits it to the CI (internal) electrodes in the cochlea. The signal is then received by the auditory nerve and transmitted to the brain as an electrical signal. As of December 2012, it was estimated that, in the United States, approximately 38,000 devices have been implanted in children and 58,000 devices have been implanted in adults, with an estimated 324,200 devices implanted worldwide (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2016).

In addition to the patient and the patient's family, an interprofessional CI team may include an audiologist, an otolaryngologist/otologist (implant surgeon), a speech-language pathologist (SLP), a pediatrician/primary care physician, a mental health professional, a developmental specialist, an occupational therapist, an educator, a vocational counselor, a social worker, a geneticist, and/or a neurologist. Interprofessional teams integrate different professional perspectives and backgrounds to provide high-quality comprehensive care. Depending on the specific situation, a patient may see a combination of service providers, both internal and external to a CI center. For example, a patient may see one audiologist/SLP at the CI center and another audiologist/SLP at school or one audiologist for hearing aid care and a different audiologist for CI care. 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. See the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) resource on interprofessional education/interprofessional practice (IPE/IPP) for more information on team collaboration.

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