Risks and Limitations

​​​Surgical Risks

  • Some patients experience reduced balance function following surgery. This can last a short period or can affect balance long-term.
  • A small percentage of implant patients have reported an increase of tinnitus (ringing in the ears) after the surgery compared with their previous experience
  • Risk from anesthesia needed for the implant surgery is slightly higher in infants and young children compared to adults
  • Slight chance of damage to the facial nerve or the chorda tympani nerve – Two nerves that pass through the middle ear space.

Cochlear implant recipients are unable to undergo certain medical procedures, should the need for these occur at some later date. These include:

  • Electrosurgery or diathermy in the vicinity of the implanted portion of the cochlear implant
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Ionizing radiation therapy
  • Most internal devices contain a magnet that is designed to be MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) compatible but it is still important to check with the surgeon before an MRI is completed on a child with a cochlear implant.

Cochlear Implants and Meningitis

Children with cochlear implants have a higher risk of contracting the type of meningitis caused by Streptococcus pneumonia (pneumococcus) than children who do not have cochlear implants. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend:

  • Pneumococcal vaccinations for all children with cochlear implants. 
  • Specific recommendations for the timing and particular type of vaccination vary depending on the child's age and vaccination history.

For additional information about these vaccinations:  

Problems with Cochlear Implant Internal Components

There is a chance of a problem occurring with the internal portion of the cochlear implant system after it is implanted. However, based on reports from the current cochlear implant manufacturers, this is a rather rare occurrence. Historically, the Cumulative Survival Rate (CSR) of internal devices is greater than 99% after 1 year and more than 98% after 5 years.

If a problem with the internal component should occur:

  • The faulty device is removed and replaced with the most current cochlear implant technology available.
  • If internal device failure occurs during the first 10 years after implantation, the manufacturer's warranty will cover any costs for re-implantation not covered by the insurance companies.
  • If the cochlear implant needs replacement beyond the 10-year warranty period, the responsibility for replacement would be dependent upon the person and their insurance company.

Static Electricity

Static electricity can potentially damage the electrical components of the internal devices or can erase programs saved to the speech processor.

To prevent static electricity from affecting the speech processor:

  • Remove the speech processor while the child is playing on plastic slides or in plastic ball pits.
  • Avoid contact with the speech processor until you have touched your child. By touching your child before you reach for the speech processor you will ground yourself and avoid passing static electricity to the processor.

Your audiologist may offer other suggestions to protect your child's speech processor from static electricity.

Cochlear Implant and Childhood Activities

In general, children with cochlear implants can participate in all common childhood activities with the exceptions of the few listed above. The implanted portion of the cochlear implant system is unaffected by running, swimming, or any normal activity. Precautions that are recommended to protect the device from trauma and damage include:

  • Wear a helmet when bicycling, skateboarding or roller-skating to help prevent damage to the internal device in the event of a fall.
  • Utilize a waterproof case to protect the processors during bath time or when swimming in a pool, lake, or ocean.