Cochlear Implant Program

A cochlear implant can restore useful hearing and provide improved communication abilities for individuals with significant hearing loss. The University of Michigan Health Cochlear Implant Program was established in 1984 and is one of the oldest and largest programs in the country. We have restored hearing to more than 3500 children and adults. Our experienced team of surgeons, audiologists, and speech-language pathologists guide patients and families through the cochlear implant process.

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 and an internal, surgically implanted electrode array. We provide several types of FDA- approved cochlear implants, depending on the patient’s need.       

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 (surgically implanted in the ear) and external (worn outside the body) components. A surgical procedure is needed to place the internal portion of the device. 

Candidates for Cochlear Implants

  • Significant hearing loss in one or both ears
  • Lack of acceptable benefit from hearing aids
  • Evidence of a functioning auditory nerve
  • Family support
  • Motivation and willingness to learn to use the implant
  • Motivation to participate in aural training to support rehabilitation with implant
  • No other medical issues that would prevent surgery

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

Cochlear implant surgery is performed by a Neurotologist or Otolaryngologist with specialty training in disorders of the ear. Surgery is often completed on an outpatient basis, with only a small incision hidden behind the ear. Extensive shaving of the hair is not required. A waiting period is required after surgery and prior to device activation to allow adequate healing of the incision site. The sound processor is programmed to the individual needs of the recipient by an audiologist. Patients typically return for the fine tuning of the device approximately 6-8 times during the first year and 1-2 times per year thereafter. Cochlear implant manufacturers are currently working on various virtual and remote programming options which Michigan Medicine is actively putting in place. Be sure to ask your provider about these new options.  

The Cochlear Implant Program at University of Michigan Health is a proud founding member of the American Cochlear Implant Alliance. Our team actively contributes to research related to cochlear implant candidacy, surgery, devices, programming, and outcomes, including clinical trials. Your surgeon and audiologist may discuss opportunities to participate in research if you are interested. 

Make an Appointment

A physician referral is required for cochlear implant evaluations. Your physician may submit a referral electronically, by fax to 734-998-8119, or by email to OTO-HRC-Scheduling@med.umich.edu.  

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