A cochlear implant is a small electronic device implanted under the skin behind your ear. The device electrically stimulates the cochlear nerve (hearing nerve) to help restore hearing.
There are 2 parts to a cochlear implant:
An external part or processor that sits behind the ear and captures sound signals.
An internal part that is implanted under the skin behind the ear. It receives the sound signals sent and sends the signals as tiny electrical currents to the nerve endings in the cochlea (inner ear).
Compared to conventional hearing aids, a cochlear implant may be beneficial if you have:
Severe to profound hearing loss in one or both ears
Severe to profound hearing loss involving only the high frequencies of one or both ears
Severe hearing loss that is associated with very disturbing and disabling tinnitus
Why do you need cochlear implant surgery?
Cochlear implant surgery bypasses the damaged structures of the inner ear to directly stimulate the auditory nerve. If you have severe to profound hearing loss, cochlear implant surgery may be a suitable treatment for you compared to a hearing aid.
A cochlear implant surgery offer many benefits. It can improve your quality of life by giving or returning your abilities to:
Hear music and phone conversations
Hear speech without relying on other visual cues such as facial expressions or lip reading
Listen clearly in loud or noisy environments
Locate where sounds are coming from
Recognise sounds from your everyday environment
Cochlear implant for children or baby
A cochlear implant may be a good option for your child or baby due to the following benefits:
Better opportunities in life and career with improved or restored hearing ability
Improved safety with the ability to hear alerts and warning sounds
Language development with regards to speech and hearing
Children generally experience the best results from a cochlear implant when it is done at a young age.
Extra care must be taken to maintain and protect the device during play.
What are the risks and complications of cochlear implant surgery?
Cochlear implant surgery is generally considered safe. Risks can include:
Failure of internal device, requiring further surgery to repair or replace it
Inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord (meningitis) after surgery, which may be preventable through vaccination
Loss of any remaining, unclear, natural residual hearing in the implanted ear for some people
While complications are not usually experienced, they include:
Infection at the surgery site
Spinal fluid leak
Unusual sense of taste
How do you prepare for cochlear implant surgery?
You might need to:
Avoid eating or drinking before the surgery
Temporarily stop taking certain medications or supplements
Your doctor will advise you further on how to prepare for your surgery.
What can you expect with cochlear implant surgery?
Cochlear implant surgery is done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be in a sleep-like state during the procedure.
The procedure usually lasts about 2 – 4 hours.
Before the procedure
Your ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat) doctor will conduct a detailed medical evaluation that may include:
Hearing, speech and sometimes balance tests
A physical examination to assess your inner ear's health
Mental health (psychological) testing to determine your ability to learn to use cochlear implants
During the procedure
Your ENT surgeon will:
Make a cut or incision behind your ear.
Form a small hole in the portion of skull bone (mastoid) where the internal device rests.
Create a small opening in the cochlea to thread the electrode of the internal device.
Stitch the skin incision close, leaving the internal device under your skin.
After the procedure
Most people feel well enough to return home the following day after surgery. It is normal to experience:
Dizziness or nausea
Pressure or discomfort over the implanted ear or ears
Your cochlear implants will not be turned on until 2 – 6 weeks after your surgery to allow time for the surgery site to heal.
Care and recovery after cochlear implant surgery
After your surgery, speech and everyday noises will sound different from what you remember. Your brain will need training and time to recognise what these sounds mean through the cochlear implant. This is an ongoing process that can be aided by wearing the sound processor continuously during waking hours.
You may require some additional therapy training with auditory verbal therapists who specialise in helping you develop natural sounding speech and language ability with the use of your cochlear implant.
Why choose Mount Elizabeth Hospitals
Located in the heart of Singapore at prime locations in Orchard and Novena, Mount Elizabeth is a trusted name in medical care.
If a cochlear implant surgery is what you need, you can be assured of experienced care from our team of ENT specialists. Our holistic medical approach includes a strong focus on patient experience with your privacy, comfort and clinical outcomes as our top priorities.
Our ENT specialists (otolaryngologists)
Browse the profiles of our ENT specialists at Mount Elizabeth. Our multidisciplinary team – including skilled hearing therapists, communication and language development therapists, speech and language therapists as well as nurses who are professionally qualified in this field – is focused on your healing journey.