Surgery FAQ

Cochlear Implantation Surgery and Follow-Up Care

Cochlear Implant patient at St. LouisDuring a cochlear implant operation, the internal device is placed under the skin behind the ear with the electrodes implanted in the inner ear (cochlea). The surgery takes about three to four hours and usually requires only an overnight stay. The rest of the recovery can take place at home and mostly involves recuperation from the general anesthesia and healing of the incision site. Children usually return to school after one week. However, physical activity should be limited for two to three weeks.

Three to four weeks after the surgery, the child is seen for fitting of the external equipment. A cochlear implant audiologist uses a computer to adjust each of the electrodes to levels that allow the child to best hear sound. Those levels are stored on a speech processor, which analyzes sound received through a microphone, codes the sound and transmits the coded signal across the skin to the implanted device. The electrodes of the implanted device deliver electrical impulses to the hearing nerves that send the message to the brain.

Cochlear Implantation Surgery AppointmentSeveral appointments are needed initially to program the speech processor. After the device has been properly fitted, the child continues in his or her training program to learn to use the new sound provided by the implant. Adjustments are made to the device periodically and the child’s progress is monitored closely. Children are typically seen for follow-up programming and evaluation appointments by the audiologist every 3-6 months after the device is initially programmed and then every 6-12 months thereafter.

Follow-up services and appointments include:

  • monitoring unaided hearing
  • fitting and optimizing hearing aids
  • programming the cochlear implant initially
  • adjusting the cochlear implant programs as needed over time
  • initial auditory training
  • monitoring your child’s progress
  • medical follow-up
  • replacing equipment
  • providing information about advances in technology.

The St. Louis Children’s Hospital Cochlear Implant Program is also affiliated with the Adult Cochlear Implant Program at Washington University. Therefore, your child not only benefits from research done here at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, but also the research that is taking place with the adult patients. In addition, as your child becomes an adult he or she can transition smoothly when ready for an adult cochlear implant audiologist. This person works within our group and is easily involved in the transition and made aware of your child’s history.