Understanding How a Cochlear Implant Works

By AOO on March 3, 2022 under Hearing Loss

Understanding How a Cochlear Implant Works

If you’ve been told by your audiologist or hearing healthcare provider that you have hearing loss, it can feel a little overwhelming to look at your options. Many people are familiar with the cochlear implant but don’t know much about how it works and why they might need one. If your audiologist recommends a cochlear implant, then here is what to know about the technology and how it can help.

What is a Cochlear Implant?

A cochlear implant is a complex medical device that functions differently than hearing aids. It’s not designed to amplify sound – rather, it restores the sense of sound by directly stimulating the auditory (hearing) nerve if the inner ear is damaged or doesn’t function. Although the sound is not perceived the same as a hearing aid, cochlear implants provide a way for individuals who are extremely hard of hearing or deaf to understand speech, conversations, have the sensation of sound.

Who’s a Good Candidate for Cochlear Implants?

Both adults and children can benefit from having a cochlear implant. However, the eligibility may be different depending on a few different factors.


Children who have experienced severe hearing loss in both ears and are at least 9 months old can benefit from a cochlear implant. It’s recommended this be done as early as possible. Exposing children to sounds is essential during their time of language acquisition. After receiving the cochlear implant, they’ll be required to have speech and language therapy. Getting this as early as possible can help them better adjust to the implant and learn to live with it.


Adults with severe degrees of hearing loss can significantly benefit from cochlear implants. This can be at any stage of life, including young adults and the elderly population. Adults who have developed language prior to hearing loss have a better chance of benefiting from a cochlear implant. Typically, a cochlear implant is considered when the hearing loss or ability to understand speech reaches a level of severity at which your hearing aid is no longer providing sufficient benefit. Your physician or audiologist will determine if you are an audiology and medical candidate for cochlear implant surgery.

How Cochlear Implants Work

There are two main components to a cochlear implant. There is an external component that’s designed to be accessible from behind the ear. There is also an internal component that is surgically implanted. The external component is held against the internal implant through the skin using a magnet.


The external portion of a cochlear implant has a speech processor, microphone, and transmitter. The speech processor and microphone are contained in a small unit that looks like a hearing aid when placed on the head and/or behind the ear. The microphone takes in acoustic sounds and then sends them to the speech processor. This will digitize and analyze the signal prior to it being sent to the transmitter. The signals are coded by the transmitter and sent to the internally implanted receiver.


The internal structure of a cochlear implant includes a receiver. It’s placed under the skin on the temporal bone of the skull. It also contains an array of electrodes that stimulate the hearing nerve. The receiver is designed to collect signals from a transmitter. It then converts these signals into electoral pulses, which are then sent to the electrodes inserted into the inner ear. This stimulates the hearing nerve within the cochlea. The brain will view these signals as sound.


Schedule an Appointment

There are many different options to treat hearing loss. To meet with our ENT specialists and learn more about how cochlear implants can help you live your best life, contact our Denver office by calling or filling out our online contact form.