The Cochlear Implant Surgery and Recovery Process
We know that deciding to get a cochlear implant is a major decision that can greatly affect how you live and engage with others. It is of equal importance that you understand what to expect from cochlear implant surgery and the recovery process, so can you feel prepared and confident for this life-changing journey to better hearing. A good place to start your learning is by getting a general overview of the typical experience of the day of and after surgery.
Preparing for surgery
As you anticipate and prepare for your cochlear implant surgery, you may experience a range of emotions. However, your surgeon, audiologist and medical team will be there to answer all your questions and help you to feel ready for the day of surgery. Many people arrange for a friend or loved one to be a support person at the hospital to help get them home. There are several materials which address the finer details of how to prepare.
As with any surgery, you will probably be feeling nervous, hopeful, and excited. Just remember—cochlear implant surgery is relatively simple. The surgery usually lasts around two hours per ear with additional time in the preparation and recovery areas.
- During the operation, a small incision is made behind the ear. A small area of hair may be shaved away from the incision site.
- The internal device, called the implant, is placed under the skin.
- A small opening is then made in the mastoid bone, followed by a tiny hole in the cochlea. The electrode array is inserted into the cochlea.
- The surgeon closes the incision and comes out of the operating room to update the family.
- Directly after surgery, you will be taken into a recovery room until the anesthesia has worn off, and most people will go home the same day as their surgery.
The days and weeks after surgery
There are four main phases to the recovery process: recovery time, waiting for activation, activation day, and hearing therapy.
Recovery time: Most are back to their normal routine in a couple days and return to work and/or regular activities one to two weeks after surgery. You will also schedule a post-operation appointment to check on your incision and progress.
Waiting for activation: Surgeons generally require a recovery period of three to four weeks before activation. The wait for the big day can be the hardest part because the anticipation of hearing again can be so great.
Activation Day: At your appointment, your audiologist will walk you through the components of the sound processor and accessories and will also program your sound processor. It can take days or weeks of practice for your brain to adjust and understand the sounds you have been missing. Remember, your new hearing technology does not amplify sound like a hearing aid—it delivers sound in a new way.
Hearing therapy: Over the next few weeks and months, practicing speaking and listening will be critical to your hearing progress and success. Please keep in mind that progress takes time, persistence and consistency are key, and resources are plentiful!
If you or a loved one would like to learn more about qualifications, implants, cost, and the general steps toward better hearing, start here.