www.CiSurgeon.org - Information about Cochlear Implants.
Dr. Ravi N. Samy, MD, FACS

Frequently Asked Questions for your Surgeon

What are the risks?  

These will be detailed by your surgeon but may include pain, infection, facial paralysis, tinnitus, dizziness, device failure/malfunction, spinal fluid leak, wound healing, suboptimal performance/benefit and general anesthesia complications.

How long do I have to stay in the hospital?  

Typically, the stay is an overnight observation to assess for pain, dizziness, or any postoperative complications.

Will I have pain? 

Everyone perceives pain differently.  Initially after surgery discomfort and mild pain is to be expected.   This pain typically improves daily.

Will my hair be shaved?  

No.

Can I wash or color my hair?  

On average, you should not wash your hair for 5-7 days but please discuss with your surgeon.  Please refrain from coloring your hair until the incision is fully healed which is usually at approximately 4 weeks.

What restrictions do I have after surgery?  

There is no heavy lifting (>10 pounds) or straining after surgery.  There is also no nose blowing after surgery.  These restrictions are for one month after surgery.

When will my device be turned on?  

Everyone heals differently. After surgery, device activation occurs when your incision has healed and your surgeon recommends activation.  This can be as early as 1-2 weeks postoperatively.

When can I return to work?  

Most people take a week off work.  This does vary.  Some patients return sooner and others take longer.

When can I fly again?

Typically, we would like you to wait at least 1 week before flying after cochlear implantation.

Will I have problems with airport security?

You will receive a card to present at the airport that you cannot go through a metal detector.  You will have to be screened separately.

Can I have an MRI after implantation?  

It depends on the type of implant.  Yes for MedEl but no for the others.  No.

Audiology FAQ

What will it sound like?

The hearing outcomes with a cochlear implant can be variable. This depends on many things related to prior use of hearing aids, length of deafness, consistency of device use, listening training, etc. For most patients it is normal to hear environmental sounds the first day, but not to understand speech. Speech understanding develops over time as you learn to use the information provided by the implant. Your patience, attendance at regular follow up appointments, regular use of the device, and structured listening practice will all speed the improvement in your performance.

Which ear should be implanted?

That is a decision that’s typically up to you. If there is a medical reason why you should have one ear done over the other such as chronic infections or anatomical abnormalities, your doctor will make a recommendation. Otherwise, the factors that go into making that decision are how long you’ve been deaf in each ear, whether or not you’ve used a hearing aid in each ear, or whether you have residual hearing that you are not willing to give up in an ear. Typically, if a patient has one ear that is worse than the other, they will select the worse ear for implantation and save the ‘good’ ear for hearing aid use so that they can have the benefit of binaural hearing.

How do I choose which cochlear implant?

There are three main companies that make cochlear implants (Cochlear Americas., Advanced Bionics, and MedEl). We offer all three types of devices. Historically, the hearing outcomes for all devices have been the same. Therefore, your choice should be based on special features or the look that you prefer. One device may have a processor that works best with your FM system, or another one may use the kind of battery that you prefer. Refer to the manufacture brochures you received to review the details or features of each device. There may be special medical considerations that your doctor or audiologist will bring up if necessary.

How do I choose a color?

You may decide to match the processor’s color with either you hair or your skin color or you may want to express your individuality and select a fun color. You typically blend the cable/coil color with your hair color. You also have the option of adding fun, removable color caps or stickers to the processors.

How long will it take until I am able to hear?

Every patients hearing experience is different and that depends on a lot of factors including duration of hearing loss, hearing aid use, expectations etc. For most patients understand speech can take 6 months to a year. We recommend some sort of aural rehabilitation after your cochlear implant is activated. This can be formal aural rehabilitation with a speech language pathologist, or this can be something informal that you work on at home. We will discuss this further at the initial activation appointment.

Will I be able to talk on the telephone?

Every recipient’s performance is different. The phone can be challenging as it is a situation that removes visual cues. We will work with you throughout the cochlear implant process to assist you in phone use. There are a lot of different telephone options for cell phone and land line phones. Just like with speech and music the telephone will come with patience and practice.

What will music sound like?

Each individual’s experience with music is different. Like with speech, the sound quality of music can depend on your length of deafness, consistency of the device, and past musical knowledge. Music is a very dynamic signal and music appreciation generally develops over time, while you brain makes sense of all the different sounds. It is likely that certain types of music may be more enjoyable to listen to than others. Like with speech, music appreciation will improve with patience, regular use of the device, and practice.

Will the implant make it uncomfortable to sleep on that side?

After your surgery the implant site may be tender and swollen, and it may be uncomfortable to sleep on that side. You may sleep on the implant side when it is comfortable for you. Remember that the external processor is taken off at night, so it will not cause discomfort.

How long does the implant last?

The internal device is designed to last a lifetime. It technically has a ten year warranty. There is a small incidence of device failure. Direct trauma to the device may also cause it to fail requiring surgical replacement. It is possible that that technology may advance over 20-30 years and you may elect to replace the device to take advantage of those changes.

The external portion is like a hearing aid and will wear out over time or with abuse. You may elect to replace it after 5-10 year. Depending on which implant you choose you may have a three of five year warranty on your sound processor. Beyond that you may elect to purchase an extended warranty or your insurance may cover repairs.

Will it need to be upgraded when new technology is available?

There is a difference between upgrading the internal device and the external device. If you are doing well there is no need to upgrade the internal device to new technology. There may be newer external devices developed in the future that may compatible with your internal device. You will have the opportunity to take advantage of these options. We rarely replace the internal device when new versions are released. We can assist you in the upgrade process but that is typically done via each manufacturer and the patient.

What appointments are required in the future?

Once, the implant has been placed you will come in for “Initial Activation” approximately 2-4 weeks after surgery. Then you will come in for a “CI Check” at the following intervals after activation: 2-weeks, 3-months, 6-months, 12-months, annually. At the CI Check you will work with your Audiologist to measure your response to sound through the sound processor via computer then you will be asked to participate in booth testing.

Aural Rehabilitation

Aural rehabilitation is an essential part of the cochlear implant process where the CI recipient learns to listen and understand through their cochlear implant.  Aural rehabilitation can ultimately improve your ability to understand speech.

We always encourage our CI recipient’s to do at home aural rehabilitation.  Structured listening practice with a cochlear implant can help train your ear and brain to hear through a cochlear implant.

Below are free resources you can you use to practice at home:

Angel Sound

The Listening Room

Sound Scape

Audio Concentration Games

The Hearing, Speech and Deaf Center offers structured aural rehabilitation with certified speech language pathologist (SLP). The first step is to meet with the SLP for an evaluation to identify areas of potential listening improvement. Please contact the Hearing, Speech and Deaf to see what individualized aural rehabilitation services they can offer you.