Cochlear Implant Surgery for the Deaf & Hard of Hearing

What Happens at The Hospital

Scar left by cochlear implant surgery
Cochlear Implant Surgery Scar. Photo © Jamie Berke

True or false? When you have cochlear implant surgery, a lot of your hair is shaved off, a big hole is cut in your scalp, they put in the device and after they close up the hole, wires stick out through your scalp.


Today's cochlear implant surgery is a relatively minor operation of just a few hours. Children who have had the surgery have been known to go home immediately afterward, playing normally with minimal post-surgical effects.

The surgery has the same normal risks associated with any surgery, and serious complications are rare. Meningitis has been shown to be a risk, and patients should take steps to reduce that risk, such as being vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers suggestions for reducing the risk of meningitis on their website.

Prior to Surgery

The implant candidate is anesthetized with a general anesthesia.

Preparing for Operation

Some hair is shaved off where the surgery will be done. This is usually a small amount of hair. The area shaved is behind the ear.

Making the Cut

An incision is made and the skin and tissue flap is lifted so that the surgeon can drill into the skull bone behind the ear. A receiver is placed into the drilled-out area and an electrode array is inserted into the cochlea.

Closing Up

The surgical area is closed up with stitches (a small permanent scar may result) and the head is bandaged.

After Surgery

Depending on the length of the surgery and other factors, the patient may either be sent home shortly after surgery or have to stay in the hospital for a short while.

Recovery Period

During the recuperation from the surgery, there may be minimal side effects such as temporary swelling. Side effects are minor if they do occur and are generally temporary: pain, changes in taste, dizziness, inflammation, bleeding, etc.

My Own Cochlear Implant Surgery

I received a cochlear implant myself in early 2008. I described the surgery experience in the article Cochlear Implants - My Cochlear Implant Story.


Cochlear Implants: Before, During, & After Implant Surgery

Benefits & Risks of Cochlear Implants

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