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Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that electrically stimulates the hearing nerve in the cochlea (inner ear). This stimulation is designed to allow individuals with severe to profound hearing loss to perceive sound.

The core values of Deaf culture emphasize pride in Deaf diversity. Efforts to surgically "fix" deafness is considered unacceptable to most culturally Deaf Americans. Being Deaf is an identity, not a pathology.

Cochlear Implant Education Center

(Gallaudet University Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center)
The goal of the center is to investigate, evaluate, and share best educational practices for children with implants within Gallaudet’s demonstration schools, and at schools and programs nationally.

Cochlear Implant Association, Inc.

Cochlear Implant Association, Inc., formerly Cochlear Implant Club International, Inc., is a non-profit organization for cochlear implant recipients, their families, professionals, and other individuals interested in cochlear implants. The Association provides support and information and access to local support groups for adults and children who have cochlear implants, or who are interested in learning about cochlear implants.

"Deaf mom fights to keep kids from ear implants"

Article from The Grand Rapids Press, 9/6/2002

"Cochlear Implants: A Deaf Parent's Perspective"

Critique of a Washington Post article about cochlear implants and the deaf community, 5/11/1997

Nucleus Cochlear Implant Systems

Commerical website about Nucleus implants and recipient support

Cohlear implants Information & Programs

People who are severely hard of hearing or deaf have often had no hope of ever hearing well or hearing at all again. Approximately four percent of all Americans are profoundly deaf. Many people gradually lose their hearing either due to age, heredity, a serious accident, or various other reasons. With new technology, however, this is starting to change for many people all over the world. Cochlear implants are a new and technologically advanced way to help people regain their hearing. These modern marvels are tiny electronic devices that are surgically implanted deep inside the ear. Patients have shown a profound return of hearing once the implants have been inserted and put into use. Almost 200,000 people now have cochlear implants, and the number increases each day. One famous recipient of the implant is nationally recognized radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The cochlear implant consists of several different parts that work together in order to help restore hearing. A tiny microphone helps to pick up sounds that are coming from the environment around the person. An electronic speech processor helps to filter the sound of human speech and process it to the transmitter inside the implant. This processor allows the implant recipient to distinguish between people speaking and other common sounds. Once the processor is installed, audiologists must “tweak” it to suit the patient’s individual hearing needs. The transmitter is held in place behind the ear using a small magnet and sounds are sent to the internal implant device. There are several small electrodes that are attached to the cochlea, a tiny part of the inner ear that is responsible for hearing. These electrodes can be in various numbers, up to a total of twenty four.

When the implant is surgically added, the electrodes inside of the cochlea receive impulses into the nerves, which send signals to the brain. It is a rather complex device, but has been shown to give people with extreme hearing difficulties the ability to hear clearly again. Only certain patients are eligible to receive a cochlear implant. The auditory nerve must still be functioning in order for the device to work. The patient must have severe hearing problems and take a series of tests to show doctors the severity of hearing loss. Those with mild difficulties hearing clearly are typically not candidates to receive the implant. For people who are already deaf, speech therapy and other extra help may be needed in order to restore full hearing and understanding of speech. The cost for a cochlear implant can range from the tens of thousands, to over $100,000.

Cochlear implants have shown to work especially well in young children since they are still learning how to understand speech and language. This is the developmental stage of life, so it is much easier for these patients to learn to hear better with a combination of therapy and the cochlear implant. Not everyone is a supporter of the implant, however. Many in the deaf community oppose the implants, but over the years, the opposition has lessened. Some people feel that the implants obscure deaf people’s ability to identify who they are, while some just feel that it is unnatural. Others say that it gets in the way of communication via sign language and hinders deaf peoples’ ability to function, as they should. Parents of deaf children overwhelmingly support the procedure because it gives their children a chance at hearing through their lifetime. Over time, the implants have shown to be successful, and the deaf community is now beginning to accept them as a helpful tool.

Generally, this surgery is a true advancement for people with difficulties hearing. The risks are minimal but they do exist, although pros tend to outweigh the cons., studies have shown that people who receive a cochlear implant have a higher risk of contracting meningitis, but the risks are still minimal. In addition, potential nerve damage is possible, and can sometimes be irreversible. The device, although very small, is still visible which may cause an issue for some. The speed of success depends on several things including the age of the patient, the type of therapy they receive after the procedure, and the technology used in the device itself. It can truly be a life changing experience and most patients are happy with the results. For those who are severely hard of hearing, a cochlear implant is an amazing and impressive solution.

Additional Information


  • More Information – A diagram and more information on cochlear implants from the US Food and Drug Administration.
  • One Patient's Story – This article discusses one patient's first-hand account with her own cochlear implant procedure.
  • For Kids – Some good information about cochlear implants, designed for kids.
  • Mimicking the Human Ear – An educational article and tutorial about cochlear implants and how they work.

Cochlear Implant Programs



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