Image of Dr. Terence Imbery working with a cochlear implant patient

When considering a cochlear implant (CI), patients and their families should consider that the implant process is the start of a lifetime relationship with the institution and CI team where the surgery is performed Patients can feel confident that the University of Chicago CI program is outstanding. We routinely treat even the most complex cases, serving as one of the most comprehensive and experienced CI teams in the Chicagoland region.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is different than a traditional hearing aid. In simple terms, a traditional hearing aid picks up sound via a microphone and makes it louder, sending the signal through your auditory system. This is considered an ACOUSTIC signal. With different hearing losses, a hearing aid may not provide enough audibility and speech clarity. 

Cochlear implants use an ELECTRICAL signal to stimulate the hearing nerve and send the information to your brain using a surgically placed internal component. The sound is picked up by the microphones of an external piece worn behind the ear or on the head and communicates with the internal implant. This external processor can be taken off throughout the day. The image below shows the internal and external components of a cochlear implant.

Illustration of how a cochlear implant works
Illustration of how a cochlear implant works.

Cochlear implant services

Our Cochlear Implant Program provides comprehensive testing for pre-implant candidacy, as well as post-implant rehabilitation and mapping services. Below please find a comprehensive list of available services:

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

Who is a candidate for a cochlear implant?

Patients with sensorineural (nerve) hearing loss in one or both ears who no longer get adequate benefit from traditional hearing aids may be candidates for a cochlear implant. Patients typically have poor word recognition scores on their hearing tests. Patients may also be candidates if they still have residual, low-frequency (bass tone) hearing or just have hearing loss in one ear. Our cochlear implant program offers devices from all three FDA approved manufacturers, Advanced Bionics, Cochlear Americas and MED-EL.

If we determine that you are a candidate based on your recent hearing test (audiogram), we will schedule a comprehensive cochlear implant evaluation with one of our audiologists. We will test your ability to hear in quiet and noisy situations, with and without your current hearing aid(s). Our audiologist will also be able to review the available devices with you and help counsel you about the fitting and rehabilitation process.  

Additional resources


Our Adult Cochlear Implant Team

Adult Cochlear Implant Audiologists

Speech Language Pathologists

Schedule an Appointment

Phone appointment icon

Schedule an Appointment Online

Learn more about our specialists and schedule an appointment directly through our online scheduling portal.

Doc video chat icon

Schedule a Video Visit

Save time by skipping the trip to the doctor's office and video conference with your provider instead. Video visits are a secure, quick, and convenient way to connect with your doctor and other members of your care team.

Calendar icon

Request an Appointment

Don't have time right now? Submit an appointment request form and we'll call you back within two days to schedule an appointment.

Find a Ear and Hearing Loss Location Near You

Hearing Loss: Expert Q&A

Michelle Havlik, Drs. Ted Imbery and Brittney Sprouse discuss causes and treatments for hearing loss as well as the multidisciplinary approach taken for individualized patient care.