How does a cochlear implant work?

The cochlear implant consists of two distinct pieces; one is an internal receiver/stimulator (surgically implanted) and the second is the external speech processor, which is worn on the outer ear (pinna) and looks similar in appearance to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. Surgery is required to place the internal device. The external components are typically fit several weeks after surgery.

How a Cochlear Implant Works:

  1. The microphone on the speech processor captures sound and the processor converts the sound to a digital signal.
  2. The speech processor sends the digital signal across the skin to the internal implant.
  3. The internal implant changes the signal to electrical energy, sending it to the electrode array in the cochlea.
  4. The electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve and the brain interprets this stimulation as sound.





    Below is an image of the external portion of the cochlear implant. #1 is the speech processor and #2 is the headpiece.



    Images taken from:
    Washington University School of Medicine


    Who is a Candidate?



Internal Receiver (Goes inside the skull)


Speech Processor and Transmitter (External Portion)



Internal and external portions with a remote.Â