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Questions about a Cochlear Implant?


Can you get surgery to make you hear?
A full assessment by professional audiologists and ENT specialists is needed. Depending on the reason for your deafness then surgery with or without an implant may return at least some hearing.

How many people use Cochlear Implants in Australia?
In 2014 there are around 10,000 people who have Cochlear Implants in Australia, many of whom have bi-lateral implants.

How well do Cochlear Implants work?
Something like 98% of people who have one get major benefit including understanding speech without the need for lip reading. For me the sound is very close to normal and I hear almost as well as my fully hearing husband.

Do people have bad experiences with a Cochlear Implant? Bad experiences fall into three broad categories: poor hearing outcomes, anatomical problems with the implant and surgical procedure and the functionality of the implant. However, the overwhelming evidence is that by far the majority of people have good experiences which lead to good hearing outcomes.

What kind of hearing loss is suitable for Cochlear Implants?
Basically, those people who have sensorinueral deafness benefit from a Cochlear Implant. This means the deafness is occurring in the cochlea where the hairs are deformed, dying or not present.

Who benefits most from a Cochlear Implant?
In my experience those who benefit the most fall into two categories.
(1) Adults who have been post lingually deafened – those who have had hearing and remember it.
(2) Children implanted before learning speech, as early as possible so their brain has a chance to lay down the hearing pathways.

What is average time on the waiting list for Cochlear Implant?
Waiting time depends on where you live, whether you have private health insurance and whether there is a public implant program.

Can you feel the Cochlear Implant in your head?
The internal part of a Cochlear implant has two connected parts. (1) The electrode array which is inserted into you cochlea and is connected to (2) the transmitter which is just under the skin sitting on the mastoid bone. You cannot feel the electrode array in your cochlea. You can only feel the transmitter if you run your hand over the place where it was implanted.

What does a Cochlear Implant cost?
A difficult question to answer because costs depends on where you live, your country as well as access to qualified surgeons and clinics. It also depends on whether you have Private Health Insurance and how much this will cover. In Australia the implant, paid for by you is mooted around $40,000. This covers the specialist visits and assessments, the surgical procedure and implant, the hospital stay, the external processor and the switch on process.

How long does the Cochlear Implant surgery take?
As a general rule the implant surgery takes 3-4 hours. This will depend on your surgeon and whether they have a ‘text book’ insert or they have to take a little more time based on your specific anatomy.

What happens during the Cochlear Implant surgery>
Your surgeon should explain all this to you.

Where is the transmitter positioned?
Usually the incision is just behind your ear – sometimes in the crease between your ear and head. The transmitter is position just behind your ear usually in your hairline. I have one behind my ear and my mother is above my ear. The surgeon decides exactly where to place it for the best results.

Will the Cochlear Implant surgery hurt?
All surgery hurts! so you are bound to have at least some discomfort. The majority of people have more trouble in getting over the general anaesthetic than the actual implant procedure. The site of incision is likely to be swollen and red. The stitches or staples may also cause swelling. So this will be at least tender. Most people I’ve talked to don’t require pain killers or only for a day or so.

Are there side effects from Cochlear Implant surgery?
Besides some tenderness some people experience tinnitus, dizziness and nausea. How much of this is from the operation or the implant is debatable. Generally it all settles down within a few days. Some people fear that something will go wrong with the surgery…and it can, but it is rare. The most common issues are the taste nerve is touched and bruised which may result in a metallic taste. This usually rights itself quite quickly. If the facial nerve is damaged then the side of your face may drop (rather like a stroke). Again this usually heals quite quickly. Both of these have happened but not often.

How long will I take to recover from Cochlear Implant surgery?
Recovery depends on you and how well you take a general anaesthetic. The first day is usually in hospital and then from then on you go home. The third day after the operation is often reported as the worst day – and from then on you just feel better. My staples were removed after two weeks and that’s when I would say I was recovered. I actually went back to work 3 days after my first implant operation but only for a few hours.

Can I fly home after cochlear surgery?
Cochlear Implant surgery is relatively minor however, it still is a surgical procedure and recovery time is needed. Once you are up and about then there should be no reason why you can’t fly. But would you want to until you feel 100%?

How soon can I drive after Cochlear Implant surgery?
It would be wise to wait until you feel 100% before driving. [As a silly young woman, I drove myself home from hospital after a hysterectomy (and went shopping for the family on the way)…but that was because there was no one else to drive for me.] Be kind to yourself - I would recommend waiting a couple of weeks if possible.

How soon after my Cochlear Implant can start back running?
When you feel well enough. There isn’t any reason you shouldn’t run, the implant is not likely to shift. But I suggest you wait a couple of weeks at least.

How visible is a Cochlear Implant?
If you have wiry, curly, fluffy hair like mine you would be hard put to even find my implant processors among it. But if you have straight hair and you wear a processor of a contrasting colour, then it can be quite visible. If you are a bloke with short back and sides or baldness, then the implant will be very visible. Some people actually ‘pretty’ them up so that they are very visible and they become a fashion item. For some reason there is not the negativity in having a Cochlear Implant that there seems to be with wearing a hearing aid. I couldn’t care less who sees them.

How long before a Cochlear Implant can be switched on?
In Australia switch on usually occurs 3-5 weeks after implantation. The reason is to allow the site to heal. However, I do believe that in some countries the implant is switched on while you are still in hospital.

How long after a Cochlear Implant can a person hear?
Most late deafened adults can hear at least something from the moment of switch on. This may only be environmental sounds or noise…but many report being able to understand speech at their switch on. It was like that for me with my first implant. But my second implant took about 4 weeks before it was programmed adequately for me to understand speech.


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How do voices sound with a Cochlear Implant?
When will I hear with my Cochlear Implant
Myths about Cochlear Implants
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Content copyright © 2014 by Felicity Bleckly. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Felicity Bleckly. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Felicity Bleckly for details.

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