Cochlear implant surgery

Duke ear nose and throat experts evaluate severely hearing-impaired or deaf children and adults, perform advanced cochlear implant surgery, and provide long-term support to cochlear implant recipients. Duke surgeons performed some of the first cochlear implant surgeries in the U.S., and our research has contributed to major advances that have resulted in superior care and outcomes.

Leaders in cochlear implant surgery

If you or your child has severe to profound hearing loss that cannot be helped with hearing aids, our specialized team members are leaders in cochlear implant surgery, and have the expertise and technology to provide the most advanced cochlear implant care available. The procedure can be performed on one or both ears, but is only available if you have severe hearing loss in both ears. 

Rapid improvements in cochlear implant technology, as well as expanded eligibility criteria, have greatly increased the number of patients who are candidates for this procedure. In fact, severely hearing-impaired children and adults who were not candidates for implants a few years ago and could only use hearing aids may now qualify, including babies as young as 12 months.

Choose Duke for your cochlear implant because we offer:

  • Safe and effective care for all ages. Our specialists are skilled at performing cochlear implant surgery on children as young as 12 months and adults into their 80s. There is no upper age limit for cochlear implants.
  • Advanced technology. We offer three types of sophisticated implants to help you hear the world around you and understand speech: MED-EL, Cochlear, and Advanced Bionics. Our neurotologists (doctors specializing in complex disorders of the ear) and audiologists will work with you to determine if you are a candidate for one of these devices and which type best meets your needs.
  • Access to clinical trials. If you have profound hearing loss, but still get some benefit from hearing aids, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial of a new hybrid device that combines features of a cochlear implant with hearing aids. 
  • Expert care, outstanding outcomes. From initial fitting and activation of your cochlear implant to ongoing management of the device’s performance, our specialists provide optimal, personalized care. Cochlear implants have excellent long-term success and the technology continues to improve. Updates to the devices can be done without additional surgery.

Cochlear implantation surgery

Before surgery, you will receive vaccines to protect against meningitis. After discovering that cochlear-implant recipients have a higher risk for this disease, the Centers for Disease Control recommends that all cochlear-implant patients get age-appropriate vaccination before surgery. Our doctors will explain the timing and type of vaccines that are advised.

What you can expect with cochlear implant surgery:

  • Cochlear implants are performed as an outpatient surgery under general anesthesia. You may go home the same day and recovery time is usually one to two weeks.
  • During the surgery, our specialists perform tests to make sure the auditory nerve is responding properly to the cochlear implant. These tests also provide data that we use to program the device after the surgery.
  • After implantation surgery, there is a three to four week healing period before the device is turned on. Your hearing loss will not be resolved as soon as the cochlear implant is activated. A series of appointments with our specialists over several months are crucial to program and fine-tune the device to give you the best possible performance.
  • Your cochlear implant audiologist will show you how to use your implant and make sure that your hearing is optimized. After the initial adjustment, almost all patients enjoy significant long-term improvements in both hearing and their ability to communicate, with minimal, if any, complications from cochlear implants.


To find out if you are a good candidate for cochlear implants, our specialists use several tests including:

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