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Cochlear Implant Surgery

According to Brian Reilly, M.D., Co-Director of the Cochlear Implant Program at Children’s National, three out of 1,000 children in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area have hearing loss and could benefit from cochlear implant surgery.

Cochlear implant devices convert acoustic signals to electric signals that are then delivered to the cochlear nerve endings through a set of electrodes, enabling the brain to discern sounds and frequencies.

Before Cochlear Implant Surgery

Our team will evaluate your child for a cochlear implant based on several criteria and determine each infant’s candidacy for cochlear implantation. Ideal candidates are usually children who:

  • Are between 6 months and 2 years old
  • Are diagnosed with severe to profound (total) hearing loss
  • Have bilateral (in both ears) hearing loss
  • Have no other known neurological deficits
  • Have normal cochlear anatomy, including a normal caliber cochlear nerve

A thorough evaluation to determine if your child is a candidate for cochlear implantation generally requires multiple visits and will include the following:

  • Assessment by a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician)
  • Follow-up and treatment by an audiologist, including hearing aid trials
  • Assessment by a speech therapist
  • Evaluation by psychological and social support teams

What to Expect During Cochlear Implant Surgery

Cochlear implant surgery involves making a small incision behind the ear and drilling away a portion of the temporal bone. The device is placed underneath the scalp, and an electrode is threaded into the cochlea through a permanent hole called a cochleostomy. The device is activated following surgical recovery, typically within a few weeks.

Once the device is turned on, your child will undergo auditory habilitation with specially trained speech-language therapists. Some children require a combination of sign language and verbal speech to effectively communicate, while others develop fully normal speech skills.

After Cochlear Implant Surgery

After the implant of a cochlear device, the Cochlear Implant team continues to support your child to help him or her progress successfully in hearing and language development. Post-operative services include:

  • Auditory habilitation/rehabilitation
  • Language intervention
  • Coordination between parents, schools and the implant center

Our team members are fluent in Spanish and interpreters are available for every session with our specialists. Our audiologists are all skilled in American Sign Language (ASL). Our program also has speech-language pathologists with auditory-verbal training in addition to more traditional therapies.

Contact Information

For more information about cochlear implant surgery, please contact Racquel Jefferson, Cochlear Implant Program Coordinator, at 202-476-3925.

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