Cochlear Implant Surgery and Activation

The Children’s Hearing Center manages all aspects of a cochlear implant patient’s care.


Cochlear implant surgery takes 1 1/2-2 hours. It is a routine procedure for a doctor trained in ear surgery (otologist).

An audiologist is also in the operating room during the surgery. The audiologist connects the cochlear implant to a computer to verify that it is working after the implant is placed.

Recovery. This surgery is usually an outpatient procedure and your child can go home the same day as the surgery. Some children may have to stay in the hospital one night for observation. Typical activities can be resumed within two or three days.

Cochlear implants for both ears. Some children may qualify for a cochlear implant for each ear (bilateral cochlear implants). Bilateral cochlear implants can be placed during a single surgery (simultaneously) or during two surgeries (sequentially). The cochlear implant team will discuss with you which option may be best for your child.


Activating your child’s cochlear implant

We will activate your child’s cochlear implant when the surgical incision has fully healed. This is usually about four weeks after surgery. Once the cochlear implant is activated, our Children’s Hearing Center team will fine-tune the device and help your child adjust to it.

Adjusting the cochlear implant. Our audiologists program your child’s implant and fine-tune the sound levels of the sound processor. The implant then stimulates new pathways in your child’s brain necessary for hearing. Your child will return for frequent programming sessions as your child learns to interpret sounds.

Learning to interpret sounds. It is critical to have your child and family participate in speech and language therapy after surgery. Learning to interpret the sounds created by an implant takes time and practice. It is also important to remember that every child responds differently to a cochlear implant.

Speech-language pathologists, teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, auditory-verbal therapists, or educational audiologists are the professionals frequently involved in this learning process.

Your child will learn to identify and interpret the new sounds during the therapy sessions. You and your family will also learn strategies to use at home and in everyday situations to encourage listening. This includes:

  • Learning to recognize your child’s auditory responses
  • How to encourage your child
  • How to reinforce your child’s efforts

Our team will complete assessments of your child’s progress during follow-up visits. These assessments:

  • Help us to monitor your child’s progress 
  • Help us monitor how the cochlear implant itself is functioning
  • Tell us if your child has any additional audiological needs
  • Provide an opportunity to develop goals, objectives and recommendations to share with you and the professionals involved in your child’s medical care and education