The decision to get cochlear implants should be a well-informed one. It is a process, not an appointment. The following will give you a thorough idea of what is involved, from the initial evaluation appointment to your ongoing, post-implant follow-ups.
Audiologic Cochlear Implant Evaluation
First, our audiologist will do extensive sound tests with and without hearing aids. Using those results in combination with a detailed hearing loss history, the audiologist will determine your likelihood of success with a cochlear implant. If you decide to move forward, you’ll get further education so you fully understand the process.
An otologist at either Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS) or Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) (you pick where you would like to go) will review the results of the hearing evaluation, perform a medical evaluation, and determine surgical candidacy and the likelihood of success of a cochlear implant. If both these evaluations are in agreement, further, more detailed evaluations will be scheduled.
Possible Additional Evaluations
- An x-ray evaluation may be performed to evaluate the anatomy of your inner ear.
- You may be tested to determine your current degree of balance and whether there’s a likelihood of balance issues after implantation.
- You could be evaluated to determine how your hearing loss affects your current listening and speaking skills and whether you may need speech or hearing therapy after activation of the implant.
- You might be evaluated for cognitive and emotional factors that could affect successful adjustment and compliance in the long term.
If you meet all candidacy criteria, you can move forward with the procedure. You’ll receive a set of preoperative instructions that fit your specific health situation.
Most patients go home the same day. Under general anesthesia, you receive an incision in the crease behind your ear. This location minimizes the visibility of the scar. Then the receiver, which is very slim to be almost unnoticeable, is placed in a pocket created under the skin.
In the next step, to avoid disturbing the ear canal or eardrum, an opening is made in your mastoid, a bone through which the cochlea can be reached. Through a tiny incision in the cochlea, a bundle of electrodes is implanted, and the incision is closed with absorbable stitches that do not need to be removed in a follow-up appointment. A dressing is placed over the ear. The surgery takes about two hours.
Most people are able to leave within 3 or 4 hours after surgery and can manage any pain with over-the-counter pain medication. Your first follow-up visit will be one week after surgery. The purpose of this visit is to check the incision and general healing. At this time, you’ll most likely be able to go back to school or work.