How does a cochlear implant work?

In case the hair cells in the cochlea have been damaged and hearing aids or acoustic implants do not help anymore, a cochlear implant can do the work of the cochlea. The electronic device stimulates the auditory nerve directly and from there to the brain.

Inner and outer part

A cochlear implant consists of an inner and an outer part that are kept together by magnets.

  • The microphone of the outer part will pick up sounds from the environment which are then transmitted to the speech processor. This is where the sound is analysed and processed into a code. The code is then transmitted to the internal receiver.
  • The internal receiver with chip determines which electrodes in the cochlea are stimulated. These electrical pulses stimulate the auditory nerve, which in turn will transmit the signal to the brain. There, the signal will be recognized as sound.

Cochlear implant inner and outer part

Who can benefit?

Cochlear implants can help people who:

  • have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears
  • have profound hearing loss in one ear with normal hearing in the other ear
  • receive little or no benefit from hearing aids

Listening with two ears can improve your ability to identify the direction of sound and separate the sounds you.

Reimbursement of a cochlear implant in Belgium

Who is eligible for the reimbursement of a cochlear implant?

  • Children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears, when conventional hearing aids do not suffice.
  • Hearing loss must be at least 85dBHL (decibels hearing level) and understanding speech should not be over 30 percent.
  • Because the electric signals are directly transmitted to the auditory nerve, the auditory nerve needs to be intact so that it can be stimulated.
  • Children younger than 12 years are eligible for a cochlear implant in both ears.

What happens before, during and after a cochlear implant?

Read more about the pre-implant examination, operation, technical calibration, auditory training and speech therapy