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What's it like: To receive cochlear implants

Jaclyn Cosgrove: Cochlear implants differ from hearing aids in that they do not simply amplify sound. Instead, cochlear implants directly stimulate the auditory nerve.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm •  Published: January 26, 2014

Specifically with a cochlear implant surgery, you run the risk of suffering injury to the facial nerve, which goes through the middle ear. You might also suffer from a fluid leak through the hole that was created to place the implant in the ear. There's also a risk of dizziness, vertigo, ringing in the ear and numbness around the ear.

Also, once the implant is placed, you could lose your residual hearing. You might also notice that you hear sounds differently. Some describe the sounds that they hear from the implant as “mechanical.”

It's important to talk with your doctor about the device that they'll be installing and the specific risks and technical difficulties that could come with that device, which often vary.

What's the recovery time?

Recovery from the surgery itself can be short. Some people can return to school or work within a few days. However, your device likely won't be turned on yet. Your device isn't generally activated generally until two to four weeks after surgery.

You may need rehabilitation once your implant is activated. Auditory training can be expensive and is not always reimbursed by insurers.

Also, many health plans don't include specific benefits to cover repairs and replacement of parts for implants. You might have coverage, though, if your policy includes durable medical equipment benefits.

Before you get a cochlear implant, you should talk with your doctor about what level you might benefit from the device. Not everyone receives the same benefits, and the devices themselves can be expensive, ranging from $40,000 to more than $100,000.

Some insurance plans cover the devices, including Medicare and the Veteran's Administration. However, for adults who are uninsured, it can be hard to obtain access to the devices.

Sources: Jace Wolfe, the director of audiology at Hearts for Hearing; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; the Mayo Clinic; the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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