Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants can help when hearing aids are no longer enough

Although hearing aids can help most people with hearing loss, they can’t help everyone. This is because even the most powerful and advanced hearing aids simply make sounds louder, not necessarily clearer. Between 5–10% of the 38 million people in the U.S. with hearing loss may not benefit from hearing aids1 ,2 – and the answer for some of them may be a cochlear implant. In fact, cochlear implants have increasingly become the solution for people with severe to profound hearing loss who no longer receive benefit from hearing aids. As a treatment option for over 25 years, cochlear implants are a well-established medical treatment for specific types of hearing loss.

Cochlear implants are covered by most insurance policies

Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants are typically covered by most insurance policies, including Medicare and Medicaid. In fact, most private and government health insurance plans provide some coverage for the costs of cochlear implants.

Cochlear implants work differently than hearing aids

A cochlear implant is a medical device that mimics the natural hearing function of the inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which simply amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the inner ear and send electrical signals directly to the hearing nerve. Since cochlear implants stimulate the hearing nerve directly, sound can be heard more clearly than what some people experience with hearing aids.

Components of a cochlear implant system

A cochlear implant system has two parts: an external sound processor and an internal implant.

External sound processor

• The external sound processor (or outer part) looks much like a behind-the-ear hearing aid and is worn on the ear. Attached to the processor is a small coil that is used to transmit sound from the sound processor to the internal implant. The coil is held in place next to the skin with a small magnet.

Internal cochlear implant

• The internal cochlear implant (or inner part) is placed behind the ear and just under the skin by the implant surgeon. Attached to the implant is a tiny electrode array, comprised of up to 22 electrodes. The surgeon inserts the electrode array into the snail shaped cochlea in the inner ear.

Cochlear implants work by directly stimulating the hearing nerve

  1. The microphone(s) in the external sound processor picks up sound from the environment and turns it into a digital signal
  2. The external sound processor then sends this digital signal through the coil and across the skin (via radio frequency) to the internal cochlear implant system
  3. The internal cochlear implant system changes the digital information into electrical signals and sends them to an electrode array that sits gently inside your hearing organ (cochlea or inner ear)
  4. The electrical signals stimulate the hearing nerve, thus allowing the brain (and the cochlear implant user) to “hear” sound

Cochlear implants can help both adults and children

A cochlear implant can help both adults and children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. This condition is commonly referred to incorrectly as “nerve deafness”. Most people who have been told that they have nerve deafness actually suffer from damage to the cochlea, not the hearing nerve. If you have been told that you have nerve deafness, a cochlear implant may be an option for you because it bypasses the damaged part of the ear and stimulates the hearing nerve directly. This direct stimulation of the hearing nerve can allow for clear sounds and improved hearing for the cochlear implant user. 

  • Cochlear implants are indicated for adults, age 18 and older, who have moderate-to-profound hearing loss in both ears and who have demonstrated limited benefit from wearing hearing aid(s) binaurally (in both ears).
  • Cochlear implants are approved for children 12-24 months with profound hearing loss in both ears and children 2-17 years with severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears, and who have demonstrated limited benefit from wearing hearing aid(s) binaurally (in both ears).

Find a Hearing Specialist in your area to discuss whether a cochlear implant is right for you.

A cochlear implant can help you get back into your life

The sooner you receive a cochlear implant, the sooner you can start to enjoy your personal best hearing. A cochlear implant can provide fast improvements over hearing aids. Studies have shown that adult cochlear implant users demonstrated, on average, a 62% improvement at three months and 71% improvement at 12 months in quiet post-implantation when compared to their preoperative hearing aid performance.3

Steps to Getting a Cochlear Implant


The information contained on this website is for informational purposes and is not intended to replace medical advice. Please consult a hearing healthcare professional.

References: 1. Center for Hearing and Communication. Facts About Hearing Loss. Available from Accessed February 2012. 2. Better Hearing Institute. Medical Advances for Hearing Loss Treatment. Available from Accessed February 2012. 3.The Nucleus Freedom Cochlear Implant System; Adult post market surveillance results.