Before, During and After the surgery

Before, During and After the surgery

Cochlear implant involves a surgery to bypass damaged hair cells. Speech and sound is then converted to electrical signal which are sent to the hearing nerve.

Primary care doctors usually refer patients to ear, nose and throat doctors (ENT doctors or otolaryngologists) to test them to see if they are candidates for cochlear implants.

Tests often done are:

  • examination of external, middle, and inner ear for signs of infection or abnormality
  • various tests of hearing, such as an audiogram
  • a trial of hearing aid use to assess its potential benefit
  • exams to evaluate middle and inner ear structures
    • CT (computerized tomography) scan. This type of x-ray helps the doctor see if the cochlea has a normal shape. This scan is especially important if the patient has a history of meningitis because it helps see if there is new bone growth in the cochlea that could interfere with the insertion of the implant. This scan also may indicate which ear should be implanted.
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan
  • psychological examination to see if the patient can cope with the implant
  • physical exam to prepare for general anesthesia

The doctor or other hospital staff may:

  • insert some intravenous (i.v.) lines
  • shave or clean the scalp around the site of the implant
  • attach cables, monitors and patches to the patient’s skin to monitor vital signs
  • put a mask on the patient’s face to provide oxygen and anesthetic gas
  • administer drugs through the i.v. and the face mask to cause sleep and general anesthesia
  • awaken the patient in the operating room and take him or her to a recovery room until all the anesthesia is gone

Immediately after waking, a patient may feel:

  • pressure or discomfort over his (or her) implanted ear
  • dizziness
  • sick to the stomach (have nausea)
  • disoriented or confused for a while
  • a sore throat for a while from the breathing tube used during general anesthesia

Then, a patient can expect to:

  • keep the bandages on for a while
  • have the bandages be stained with some blood or fluid
  • go home in about a day after surgery
  • have stitches for a while
  • get instructions about caring for the stitches, washing the head, showering, and general care and diet
  • have an appointment in about a week to the stitches removed and have the implant site examined
  • have the implant “turned on” (activated) about 3-6 weeks later