Cochlear implant

At Tays, we perform cochlear implant surgeries on children who are born deaf and children and adults with severe hearing defects for whom the sound amplification of conventional hearing aids is not enough.

How cochlear implants work

Cochlear implants consist of two components: an internal implant secured in place on the skull bone under the skin, and an external processor worn behind the ear. The processor looks like a conventional hearing aid and contains a microphone, speech processor and transmitter coil. The microphone picks up incoming sounds and transmits them to the speech processor, which analyses the sounds and changes them into digital signals.

The digital sounds are transmitted at radio frequencies through the transmitter coil into the implant located under the skin, where they are changed into electrical impulses. The electrical impulses are taken into the electrode inserted in the cochlea in the inner ear, where they stimulate the remaining cochlear nerve fibres.

Who is eligible for cochlear implant rehabilitation?

Cochlear implants may be an option for adults or children for whom the sound amplification of conventional hearing aids is not enough. In the case of children who are born deaf, the goal is to perform the implant surgery before the age of one year, as the outcome of rehabilitation tends to be poorer in older children. Adult patients usually receive an implant in one ear. Children who are born deaf will receive an implant in each ear.

The cochlear implant team of the Tays Audiology Centre, which includes an audiologist, ear surgeon, implant nurse, rehabilitation counsellor, psychologist, social worker and speech therapist, always makes the decision regarding a patient’s eligibility for cochlear implant rehabilitation.

More detailed hearing tests are carried out before the final decision on surgery. The patient also meets the members of the implant team and receives information about the implant, the surgery and matters related to post-operative rehabilitation. A magnetic resonance imaging examination and/or a computerised tomography scan of the ears is performed to identify any abnormalities of the ears and cochlear nerves.

The patient must always personally commit to post-operative treatment and rehabilitation and understand that, even with treatment, a good level of hearing may not always be achieved.

The operation

The operation is always performed under general anaesthesia. The incision is made behind the ear. Some hair will need to be shaved behind the ears. The patient may need to stay in the hospital overnight after the procedure, but no longer than that. There is usually no pain after cochlear implant surgery.

Post-operative rehabilitation

The cochlear implant and processor will be activated at the Audiology Centre about 4 to 5 weeks after the operation. During the first visits, the patient is instructed in the use of the implant and the properties and settings of the processor. The patient will need to attend about four check-up visits over the first month. After that, check-ups will be organised less frequently. In the case of children, check-ups will continue to be arranged at least twice a year. Rehabilitation will proceed according to a plan tailored for each individual patient.

Using the cochlear implant

All patients with a cochlear implant will receive instructions for use of the device, and if anything is unclear, the patient can always turn to the staff of the Audiology Centre. The external components include electronic parts, which need to be protected from water, dirt and impact.

If surgical procedures, physical treatments or any kind of magnetic resonance imaging examinations are being planned for the patient, the staff must always be informed of the presence of the cochlear implant and the Audiology Centre must be contacted. Strong static electricity may cause disturbances in the performance of the implant. The patient will receive separate instructions about this.

Person in charge

Chief Physician Juha-Pekka Vasama