Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing the journey to hearing with a cochlear implant is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make for yourself or your child. These answers to frequently asked questions are designed to help you make the right decision and get the most out of your journey.

If you don’t find the answers to your questions, you’re invited to contact us directly.

AB Provides Lifelong Service and Support

“Everyone we have come into contact with at AB has been nothing less than wonderful. They really care about you and your experiences and are ready to answer any questions that come up. They listen to your concerns and really make you feel like you’re not alone and that your feedback matters.”

— Lisa Cunningham, mother of Liliana, bilaterally implanted by age 13 months

Why do people get a cochlear implant?

People get a cochlear implant to restore their ability to hear. Adults want to be independent and to feel included instead of isolated. They want take part in conversation, hear their children or grandchildren talk, listen to music or simply listen to the sounds of nature. They want to be confident that they can hear in all listening situations, even in background noise.

Parents want their child to hear the sounds of life. They want to provide their child with the opportunity to learn to listen, talk and communicate freely and independently. They want their child to participate fully in the world of sound.

Are cochlear implants right for me?

If hearing aids are no longer offering you enough benefit, then a cochlear implant might be the solution. AB’s cochlear implant system helps people with severe-to-profound hearing loss go beyond hearing aids and enjoy a complete hearing experience at any stage of life.

Am I a candidate for a cochlear implant?

If hearing aids are no longer offering you enough benefit, you may be a candidate for cochlear implants. Possible indicators include:

  • Having difficulty following conversations without lip-reading.
  • Difficulty following most telephone conversations, especially when the voice is not a familiar one.
  • Feeling isolated and limited, both socially and occupationally, because of hearing loss.
  • A moderate/severe-to-profound hearing loss in both ears
  • Very little/no benefit from hearing aids
  • Difficulties with spoken language

To determine if you are a candidate for a cochlear implant, a comprehensive evaluation will be conducted by a team of experts at centres of excellence that offer the Advanced Bionics cochlear implant system. Candidacy for a cochlear implant is evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of professionals: audiologists, rehabilitation specialists, surgeons and other team members, such as psychologists. These team members form part of a cochlear implant unit.

Your cochlear implant team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation. This will assess the type and level of hearing impairment, as well as how well you perform with hearing aids – sometimes recommendations are made for a trial period with more powerful hearing aids. In addition, the audiologist performs speech perception tests to assess an individual’s current ability to understand speech using audition alone.

In addition to the hearing evaluation, the assessment includes medical tests such as an MRI. The Cochlear Implant Team will discuss all potential tests and procedures with you.

Is my child a candidate for a cochlear implant?

If your child failed a newborn hearing screening test or still struggles to hear with hearing aids, they may be a candidate for cochlear implants. They may also exhibit a moderate/severe to profound hearing loss in both ears; derive very little/no benefit from hearing aids; and/or have a speech and language delay.

To determine if a child is a candidate for a cochlear implant, a comprehensive evaluation will be conducted by a team of experts at centres of excellence that offer the Advanced Bionics Cochlear Implant system. Candidacy for a cochlear implant is evaluated by a multidisciplinary team of professionals: audiologists, rehabilitation specialists, surgeons and sometimes other team members, like psychologists. These team members form part of a cochlear implant unit.

Your child’s cochlear implant team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation. This will assess the type and level of hearing impairment, as well as how well your child performs with hearing aids – sometimes recommendations are made for a trial period with more powerful hearing aids. In addition, the audiologist performs speech perception tests to assess your child’s current ability to understand speech using audition alone. With young children, an auditory brainstem evaluation is done while the child is sedated or sleeping naturally.

In addition to the hearing evaluation, the assessment will include medical tests such as an MRI. The Cochlear Implant Team will discuss all potential tests procedures with you.

What are the age limits for a cochlear implant?

Young children can be implanted as young as 10 months of age, depending on their health, the cause of their hearing loss, and other factors. Early implantation provides your child access to hearing voices and speech, which is critical in developing strong language and speech skills.

There is no upper age limit for cochlear implantation. If you are healthy and able to undergo general anesthetics and the cochlear implant unit has deemed you to be an appropriate candidate you can receive a cochlear implant.

Does my child need to go to a special school?

Your rehabilitation specialist on the cochlear implant team will advise you on the best placement of your child. Certain mainstream schools specialise in including children with cochlear implants, such as Eduplex in Pretoria.

What is the surgery like?

Cochlear implantation is minimally invasive. In most cases, implantation can be done on an outpatient basis. The surgery typically takes three to four hours, and is done under general anesthesia.

What happens after implantation?

Depending on your doctor’s advice, you may be able to go home the same day – others might stay in the hospital overnight. You will be provided with post-implantation guidelines, such as wound care.

Activation of the cochlear implant typically takes place four weeks after implantation, after which you will be able to begin to access the world of sound.

Usually, initial stimulation of the cochlear implant will take place in your audiologist’s office. The audiologist will then create a customised set of listening programmes for your external sound processor.

Follow-up programming and training sessions to improve your hearing performance are typically scheduled in the weeks and months following the initial session. Long-term, adults typically have annual follow-ups; younger children generally require more frequent follow-ups.

Will I receive continual support

AB believes in putting recipients first. That’s why we offer a whole range of services to ensure you always have the support you need. From our technical support and customer service to our comprehensive warranty and listening resources, we’re here to make the journey to hearing easier every step of the way.

AB will continue to support your journey to hearing with educational resources, outstanding customer service, and support to ensure that you take full advantage of all the world of hearing has to offer.

Your cochlear implant unit will offer you life long support in terms of mapping, device repair and monitoring of your hearing progress.

How many Ear Institute Cochlear Implant units and support services are available in South Africa?

Our cochlear implant units and service centres are based in Pretoria (Head Office), Johannesburg, Western Cape and Durban. We provide a same day courier service to exchange faulty parts for our cochlear implant patients throughout South Africa.

What if I am not based in South Africa?

The Ear Institute Cochlear Implant Unit has implanted clients from across Africa. We can tailor your initial evaluations in South Africa to take place in a minimum period of 3 to 4 days. We will assist you with arrangements for accommodation and transportation in South Africa. Once the surgery is performed, we will require the patient to stay a minimum of 5 days to ensure proper follow up before they travel back home.

How do cochlear implant systems differ from hearing aids?

Hearing aids are designed to amplify sound, but often this is not enough to make it any clearer or easier to understand for people with severe-to-profound hearing loss. Cochlear implants bypass the damaged part of the ear, sending sound directly to the hearing nerve, where it’s relayed on to the brain. Most cochlear implant recipients demonstrate improvement in their ability to understand speech, even in noisy environments, compared to hearing-aid wearers.

Can I have a hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other?

You or your child may continue to wear a hearing aid in the non-implanted ear. Continuing to use your hearing aid in one ear and a cochlear implant in the other ear may help you to hear better in noisy environments, as well as assist in localizing sound. This solution, known as bimodal hearing, can be substantially beneficial. Talk to your hearing health professional about using both technologies for optimum hearing performance.

Will I be able to enjoy music with my cochlear implant?

AB’s HiRes Fidelity 120™ sound processing is the only sound processing strategy that can implement simultaneous current steering to deliver the dimensions of music (loudness, pitch, timing) for a full musical experience. AutoSound™s programmable wide Input Dynamic Range (IDR) and automatic volume control adjust automatically so that you don’t miss a note. And, the naturally placed T-Mic™ microphone makes it effortless to use your MP3 player. This advanced technology only from AB works in concert so that you hear your best.

Cochlear implant technology seems to advance rapidly. Should I wait for newer technology?

AB understands that nobody wants to go through the process of receiving a cochlear implant only to discover that a better model is available a few months later. When you choose a cochlear implant system from AB, you benefit from superior internal technology now and external upgradeability for the future so that your hearing advances as technology does – without the need for surgery.

With an AB cochlear implant system, you can enjoy tomorrow’s advanced technology with today’s implant.

Lily Hears a World She Never Heard Before

“Our daughter was born with profound hearing loss and became one of the youngest in Nebraska to receive bilateral cochlear implants. She has grown into a thriving 3-year-old, surpassing all expectations, thanks to AB and the support of her family.”

— Brian & Susan Ardinger, parents of Lily, bilaterally implanted by 12 months

Michael’s Journey to Hearing

“I chose to have my implant put in my left ear because that was my stronger ear in the days when I could still hear with the help of hearing aids. Implanting the left ear would let me hear through the side I was accustomed to using.”

— Michael Chorost, implanted at age 37