Cochlear Implant Program

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that stimulates residual nerve fibers in the inner ear. These electrical pulses are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound. An implant system consists of an external speech processor (typically worn behind the ear) and an internal, surgically implanted electrode array. We provide several types of cochlear implants, depending on the patient’s need.  All of the devices we use are multi-channel cochlear implant systems.

While hearing aids and other assistive listening devices simply amplify sounds, a cochlear implant transforms speech and other sounds into electrical energy that is used to stimulate surviving auditory nerve fibers in the inner ear. Unlike most hearing aids, cochlear implants have both internal (inside the skull) and external (worn outside the body) components. A surgical procedure is needed to place the internal portion of the device. 

If you have a significant hearing loss, a cochlear implant may restore useful hearing and provide improved communication abilities. In choosing a cochlear implant program, the annual surgical volume is key, especially if there is an abnormality with the inner ear. The University of Michigan Cochlear Implant Program was established in 1984 and is one of the oldest programs in the country. We have restored hearing to more than 2,800 children and adults.

Candidates for cochlear implants should have:

  • Moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • Little or no benefit from hearing aids
  • Evidence of a functioning auditory nerve
  • Family stability and support
  • Motivation and willingness to learn to use the implant
  • An educational/rehabilitation program that emphasizes auditory skill development
  • No other medical issues that would prevent surgery

We provide comprehensive testing performed by audiologists and speech-language pathologists to evaluate candidacy for a cochlear implant. Testing for candidacy includes a standard hearing test and speech recognition tests administered while wearing appropriate hearing aids.  A CT scan or MRI is also ordered to evaluate the physical structures of the inner ear where the electrodes will be placed.

Surgery for a cochlear implant is performed by a Neurotologist, a surgeon with specialty training in disorders of the ear. Surgery is almost always done on an outpatient basis, with only a small incision hidden behind the ear. Extensive shaving of the hair is not required. A 4-to 6-week period is required prior to device activation to allow adequate healing of the incision site.  During the activation, the device is adjusted and tuned by an audiologist.  Patients typically return for the fine tuning of the device approximately 6-8 times during the first year and annually thereafter.

We frequently participate in clinical trials to evaluate new devices or new indications for candidacy. Our program is part of the federally funded Childhood Development after Cochlear Implant (CDACI) study, aimed at defining variables that contribute to successful performance with a cochlear implant. Additionally, we are presently participating in the Medicare (CMS) Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) study evaluating revised indications for Medicare beneficiaries.

Make an Appointment

Schedule an appointment by calling us at 734-998-8119 or e-mail us at OTO-HRC-Scheduling@med.umich.edu