What happens before, during and after a cochlear implant?

Preliminary examinations

Before the actual operation you will be invited for a half-day consultation for a number of examinations and discussions with a few people of the CI-team.

You will be given extensive information about the proceedings and the aftercare for a cochlear implant. Feel free to ask questions if anything is unclear.

  • The surgeon will do an ear-nose-throat examination and explain the procedure.
  • The audiologist will give an explanation about how a cochlear implant works and tell you about the rehabilitation after surgery. You will also undergo hearing tests to see if you qualify for a cochlear implant.
  • A psychologist and a social worker will assess your motivation, expectations, general ability to learn, social situation, your education level and current support. This will enable us to assess the rehabilitation process after surgery better.
  • Scan of the cochlea.
  • Consultation with the anaesthesiologist.
  • In exceptional cases, you will have to undergo an electric stimulation test to check whether the auditory nerve is working properly.

After that your file with all its data is drawn up and sent to RIZIV (Institute for hospital and disablement insurance) for approval.

After RIZIV had approved your case, your date for surgery will be scheduled.

Hospital admission and surgery

Admission

  • Duration admission: 3 to 4 days

Surgery

  • Duration surgical procedure: 3 to 4 hours
  • Surgery under general anaesthetic.
  • Applying the inner part of the implant. We try to spare any auditory rest as much as possible.
  • After that tests will be performed to make sure the implant is working properly.

Aftercare

After the operation, there is a waiting time of four weeks in order to let the operation wound heal.

Technical calibration, auditory training and speech therapy

Fittings

Four weeks after the operation we start the fitting or technical calibration of the speech processor. The fitting takes the following issues into account: progress and results of the auditory training and speech therapy.

The fittings always take place in the multidisciplinary university centre for speech therapy and audiology (MUCLA) and each fitting lasts about 45 minutes. The first week we schedule two fittings, and in the two subsequent weeks we schedule one fitting a week.

After that, we plan, depending on the needs, biweekly fittings, then monthly, every six months and eventually annually. At least once a year there is a test fitting.

Auditory training and speech therapy

Speech therapy and auditory training are necessary because perception of sound with a cochlear implant is completely different. A cochlear implant bypasses the working of damaged receptor hair cells, but can never match normal hearing.

At first, most children and adults can hardly understand anything with their cochlear implant. With the aid of auditory training, speech therapy and fitting and the frequent use of the cochlear implant, understanding speech and speech itself can gradually improve. Usually it takes a lot of patience.

Auditory training and speech therapy also take place in the multidisciplinary university centre for speech therapy and audiology (MUCLA). In case you live too far, the CI team can work together with other specialised centres and speech therapists near you.

Last edit: 24 January 2020