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Having a Cochlear Implant : Surgery

Doctor preparing for surgeryCochlear implant surgery is carried out on an inpatient basis and usually involves a 2-3 day stay in hospital. Surgery is required to embed a receiver/stimulator package into a cavity drilled in the mastoid bone and to insert an electrode array into the cochlea. In theatre device function and hearing responses are evaluated by a clinical physicist. A planar x-ray is taken to check the position of the electrode array prior to discharge.

A pressure bandage is worn overnight following surgery (and then a fresh light bandage is applied for a further 24hours in children. It is useful if patients bring nightwear with front fastenings. Individual arrangements are made for checking the wound. Dissolvable sutures are normally used for both children and adults. The risks associated with cochlear implant surgery are generally minimal but will be discussed in more detail with you when you meet the ENT Consultant overseeing your surgical care. You can download our surgical information leaflet which gives more information about the surgery here.

Girl with toys recovering after surgeryThe risks associated with cochlear implant surgery are the same as those associated with any other major operation and general anaesthetic. Many are the same as when you get your tonsils and adenoids removed.
For patients travelling from a distance, accommodation is available for their immediate family within the hospital grounds free of charge. In the case of children, a parent will also be required to stay in the ward with their child.

Hearing is not restored immediately after surgery. A period of about 4 weeks is required to allow the implant site to heal and to allow any swelling or tenderness to subside, before the external parts can be issued. An appointment for ‘switch on’ will usually be issued prior to discharge from the hospital. Hair can be gently washed after 48 hours. Most adults are fit to return to work within 4 weeks and children can return to nursery or school within this period, but care should be taken to minimise the risk of infection and bumps to the head.