For some patients, a hearing aid is simply not enough. For those with severe to profound hearing loss, even the finest, most advanced hearing aids will not work effectively. The University of Chicago Medicine's Cochlear Implant Program provides a safe, proven treatment that transmit sounds beyond the damaged portion of the ear, enabling patients to hear in a natural-like way.

The internal portion of the implant is positioned in the cochlea (a pea-sized structure, located deep inside the ear). The external portion (the processor) is positioned close to the patient’s outer ear. The processor picks up sounds with microphones and sends them to the implant, which stimulates the hearing nerve directly.

Cochlear Implant Services

The UChicago Medicine Cochlear Implant Program provides comprehensive testing for pre-implant candidacy, as well as post-implant rehabilitation and mapping services. These services include:

  • Comprehensive hearing assessment
  • Cochlear implant consultations
  • Educational liaison to provide educational support
  • Mappings
  • Equipment checks and maintenance
  • Bimodal hearing aid services
  • Auditory verbal therapy
  • Pediatric and adult aural habilitation therapy
  • Candidate speech-language evaluations

How Natural Hearing Works

How Cochlear Implant Hearing Works

Ear canal: Sound moves through the ear canal and strikes the ear drum

Sound processor: External sound processor captures sound and coverts it into digital signals

Eardrum and bones: Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, sending the bones in the middle ear into motion

Digital signals: Processor sends digital signals to internal implant

Inner ear: The motion causes the fluid inside the inner ear (cochlea) to move the hair cells inside the inner ear

Electrode array: Internal implant converts signals into electrical energy, sending it to an electrode array inside the cochlea

Hearing nerve: Hair cells change the movement into electric impulses, which are sent to the hearing nerve in the brain, enabling the person to hear.

Hearing nerve: Electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, bypassing damaged hair cells. The brain perceives the signals as sound, enabling the person to hear.

Getting a cochlear implant involves several steps, including a thorough evaluation by multiple specialists to determine who is a candidate. Prior to implantation, a hearing aid trial is needed. If you already have hearing aids, please bring them to all evaluation appointments. Determining a patient's candidacy will entail:

  • A medical examination performed by a surgeon, including imaging studies
  • Cochlear implant evaluation, performed by a licensed audiologist
  • Speech and language evaluation, performed by a licensed speech-language pathologist
  • Discussion of diagnostic results including imaging, audiology, vaccinations records and speech and language recommendations
  • Cochlear implant consultation with a member of the cochlear implant team. At this appointment we will provide all the information regarding the process of cochlear implantation, including: how a cochlear implant works, the parts of a cochlear implant, what to expect from the cochlear implant, accessories of the cochlear implant, and selection of the device.

Meet Our Cochlear Implant Team

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Ear, Nose & Throat