Find A Physician

Return to Cochlear Implants Overview

More on Cochlear Implants

Research and Clinical Trials

Return to Cochlear Implants Overview

More on Cochlear Implants

Ear, Nose, and Throat (Otorhinolaryngology)

Cochlear Implants

About Cochlear Implants

Doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian are using cochlear implants to restore hearing in patients with severe hearing loss. A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is implanted into the cochlea of the inner ear and is used in tandem with an external microphone and sound processor that are usually worn like a hearing aid around the ear. The implant allows a hearing-impaired user to recognize and understand speech so that he or she regains the ability to converse, use a telephone, and enjoy other social activities.

Illustration of cochlear implant
Illustration of cochlear implant
(click to enlarge)

The cochlea is lined with thousands of tiny hair cells that receive vibrations and convert them into electrical signals that the brain then interprets as sound. Some of these hair cells stop functioning as people age, often leading to mild hearing loss. This is a common problem that can usually be overcome with the use of hearing aids, which amplify sound enough for most people to lead fairly normal lives.

However, if the cochlea's hair cell loss becomes severe, through aging, illness, or a hereditary condition, merely amplifying the sound will not restore hearing. In these cases, a cochlear implant, which replaces the function of the lost hairs, may be recommended to restore hearing and to help avoid depression and other conditions fueled by social isolation.

How Cochlear Implants Work

The cochlear implant is composed of two parts – an outer part (looks much like a hearing aid) that picks up sound with a microphone, processes it, and transmits it wirelessly to the inner part lying on the skull underneath the skin. Receiving the instructions from the outer part, the internal receiver directly stimulates the auditory nerve which, in turn, transmits the signal to the brain that interprets the sound.

Once the device is implanted, toddlers born without hearing can learn speech and language much like their hearing peers with the help of auditory verbal therapy. Early auditory testing for hearing loss is key in children, whose outcomes are best if they receive the implants as early as possible. An older person who has only recently lost his or her hearing may have immediate success with an implant, while those with longer duration hearing loss may require up to three to six months to experience the full benefit of the implant.

Technological advances are now allowing implants to be done in one or both ears, in a way that supplements whatever natural hearing ability a person retains. Researchers are also making progress in adapting cochlear implants to translate the complex sounds of music. As with any operation, cochlear implant surgery carries some risk, though it is generally considered a very safe procedure.


Otorhinolaryngology, NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell
(646) 962-5300
Otolaryngology, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia
(212) 305-1696
  • Bookmark
  • Print

    Find a Doctor

Click the button above or call
1 877 NYP WELL


Top of page