Toddler with cochlear implant playing.

A cochlear implant is a small, electronic device that has a surgically implanted part and a part worn on the head that resembles a behind-the-ear hearing aid. It can help provide a sense of sound to a child who is profoundly deaf or severely hard of hearing.

How does a cochlear implant work?

A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid, which amplifies sound so that it can be detected by remaining hair cells in the ear. A cochlear implant is an electrode that’s placed in the inner ear (cochlea) to bypass the damaged cells. An implant contains two parts:

  • External portion: Includes the microphone, speech processor and transmitting coil. The microphone picks up sounds, which are filtered by the speech processor into coded signals. The transmitting coil receives the coded signals and sends them through the skin to the implanted receiver that is held onto a child’s head with a magnet.
  • Internal receiver: Electrically activates the electrode array, which stimulates the auditory nerve. Nerve impulses are sent to your child’s brain where they’re interpreted as sound.

Our multidisciplinary team in the Hearing Loss Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta conducts an extensive cochlear implant evaluation to determine if an implant is right for your child. If he is a cochlear implant candidate, we’ll help coordinate:

  • A CT scan or MRI evaluation to visualize the inner-ear structure.
  • An initial consultation with an ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgeon after initial audiological and radiological studies have been completed. During this consultation, clinicians will evaluate your child’s overall health, perform a detailed ear evaluation, and review CT or MRI exam results.
  • Additional testing, which may include psychological, cognitive and speech-language pathology. Your child’s ENT surgeon will determine whether additional testing is needed.
  • Audiological testing, as needed, once a specific device has been chosen.

Candidates include children who receive little benefit from hearing aids and are one of the following:

  • Between the ages of 9 months and 18 months old and have profound hearing loss in both ears.
  • Between the ages of 18 months and 17 years old and have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.

Our team members will meet with you and your child to evaluate him and answer your questions about the implantation process. We consider your family as part of our team, and we want you to be well-informed. Before scheduling a team evaluation, we require you to enroll your child in an auditory training program.

If your child is a candidate for a cochlear implant and your insurance company provides prior approval, you will work with your child’s ENT surgeon to schedule surgery.

The experts in our Hearing Loss Program provide a wide range of services to help address pediatric hearing problems, including evaluations, treatment options, therapy and newborn screening.

Learn more

Getting a cochlear implant is just the beginning—adjusting to the hearing and speaking world can be difficult for your child. That’s why we offer a multidisciplinary approach through a team of otolaryngologists (ENTs), audiologists (hearing specialists), speech-language pathologists, social workers and child psychiatrists.

After implant surgery, our team members will train your child to use and understand new sounds that he couldn’t hear before with hearing aids. This instruction will give your child the best possible foundation for developing his spoken language skills.

Post-surgical rehabilitation includes:

  • Setting speech and language treatment goals, which are specific to the child’s level of listening skills.
  • Collaboration between audiology and speech services to help make sure your child is getting maximum benefit from the implant.
  • Mapping (or programming) the implant to create the best speech outcomes.
  • Troubleshooting and problem resolution.
  • Input from teachers and other caregivers.

Therapy is family focused, and each session includes parent participation and home program activities. Our cochlear implant team uses an auditory-based approach, which emphasizes listening as the primary mode to develop spoken language skills. We provide ongoing evaluation for your child to determine if he needs additional treatment or services.

At Children’s, we are dedicated to meeting the needs of kids with profound hearing loss. Our team of otolaryngologists, audiologists and speech-language pathologists are pediatric trained and have experience working with kids from birth to age 21. We offer a full range of audiology diagnostics and treatment services to help create integrated, comprehensive care that’s unmatched at other children’s facilities for infants, children, teens and young adults. Your child will receive a thorough and individualized assessment by our specially trained team to help your family determine whether a cochlear implant is right for his condition. We also offer a comprehensive approach to cochlear implantation. Our multidisciplinary team works together, and with your family, to specialize your child’s care.