Cochlear implant (CI) surgery requires general anesthesia and the procedure for one ear lasts about 2 to 3 hours. Surgery is usually completed as an outpatient procedure but may include a one-night stay in the hospital.
In some instances, children receive bilateral devices (one implant in each ear).
The child may be implanted in both ears in one surgery (simultaneous) or may have each ear implanted at different times (sequential). The cochlear implant team will discuss the option of bilateral implants (simultaneous or sequential implantation) with the family.
It generally takes 3 to 5 weeks for the surgical incision to heal, but most children resume normal activities within days after the surgery.
During the time between surgery and implant activation, the child will not be able to wear a hearing aid in the implanted ear and so will not be able to hear in that ear. If a hearing aid is worn in the non-implanted ear, the child should continue to wear this aid during the time between surgery and activation.
Many children receive bimodal stimulation, which means they continue to wear a hearing aid in their non-implanted after the implant is activated. This can improve their ability to determine from which direction a sound is coming (localization) and improve speech understanding in noisy environments.
1-4 weeks after surgery, the child will return to the clinic to have the device activated for the first time. Cochlear implant activation is a 1-2 day process.
Children require long-term support services from a number of professionals for educational and speech-language development after the first year of cochlear implant usage.