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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 inserted into the cochlea (hearing organ), enabling the brain to discern sounds and different pitches.

Before Cochlear Implant Surgery

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

  • Are between 6 months and 2 years old (or older, if hearing loss is progressive)
  • Are diagnosed with severe to profound (total) hearing loss in both ears or one ear (SSD)
  • Have no other known neurological deficits
  • Have normal cochlear anatomy, including a normal sized cochlear nerve

Please note: The cochlear implant team will evaluate cochlear implant candidacy for a child even if one or more criteria listed above is not met.

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

  • Medical assessment by a pediatric otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat physician)
  • Follow-up and treatment by a cochlear implant audiologist, including a trial period with hearing aids
  • Assessment by a speech and language pathologist
  • Additional evaluations that may be recommended by the cochlear implant team

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.

After Cochlear Implant Surgery

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

  • Routine audiology visits to manage and fine tune programming of your child’s cochlear implant and to assess and monitor auditory benefit
  • Auditory habilitation/rehabilitation, which is offered by each cochlear implant manufacturer and many other websites
  • Speech and language intervention
  • Coordination between parents, schools and the cochlear implant center

Once the device is turned on or activated, auditory habilitation/rehabilitation is important to assist your child in developing communication skills. These services can be provided with specially trained speech-language pathologists in the community or in the school system. Children who use cochlear implants can develop a wide range of communication skills - some may require a combination of spoken language and manual language while others may depend on spoken language alone. Our team is committed to supporting various communication methods that each child and their families choose to use, whether that is including one or multiple spoken languages, American Sign Language (ASL), or visual support systems such as Cued Speech.  

Some of our team members are fluent in Spanish, and interpreters for additional languages are available for every session with our specialists. A few of our audiologists are also able to communicate in ASL. 

Contact Information

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

Molly's Story

Mollys Story

3-year-old Molly is obsessed with the movie “Frozen.” And like the fearless princess in Disney’s icy animated epic, there’s something very special about Molly. She was born deaf.

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