Criteria to be a candidate for a cochlear implant:
Mayo Clinic has performed cochlear implants in children as young as 1 year of age and adults as old as 96.
You undergo many tests during several outpatient visits, including:
Surgery is performed while you are under general anesthesia and takes approximately one to three hours. The ear, nose and throat surgeon makes an incision behind the ear and forms a slight depression in the mastoid bone, where the internal device rests. The surgeon then creates a small hole in the cochlea and threads the electrode array of the internal device through this hole. The incision is closed so that the internal device is beneath the skin. Most people feel well enough to return home the day of surgery.
Two to four weeks after surgery, the external components of the device can be programmed and activated. There's no hearing ability from the implant until this is done.
The activation comprises:
Rehabilitation involves training the brain to understand sounds heard through the cochlear implant. Speech and everyday environmental noises will sound different from what you remember; the brain needs time to recognize what these sounds mean. This process is ongoing and is best achieved by wearing the speech processor continuously during waking hours.
You may be given listening exercises to do at home. The difficulty level of these exercises varies. Some people may need weekly rehabilitation therapy to help retrain the brain to hear. Speech therapy may be recommended for people whose speech has been significantly affected by hearing loss.
Bilateral cochlear implants are increasingly being accepted as standard care for the treatment of severe hearing loss. This is particularly true for infants and children who are acquiring speech and language.
Bilateral cochlear implants have been documented to provide significant hearing benefit for children and adults, related to quiet, noise, reverberation and localization of sounds. There's also evidence that bilateral cochlear implants significantly improve the quality of life in people with severe hearing loss and that the cost of the second implant is offset by its benefits.