It is normal to have feelings of anxiety, uncertainty, insecurity, and nervousness on the day of surgery. It may be helpful for candidates to talk to other cochlear implant recipients about their experiences to get an idea of what to expect. It is also recommended that candidates and family members ask the surgeon all questions they may have to be fully prepared.
Cochlear implant surgery typically lasts between two and three hours. Additional time is necessary for the administration of anesthesia and safety monitoring devices and time in the recovery room to awaken. In general, the surgical procedure is not considered dangerous or particularly painful. The risks are the same basic risks associated with any surgery requiring general anesthesia. At Boys Town National Research Hospital, our anesthesiologists have extensive experience anesthetizing patients of all ages, from infants to adults.
Once the patient is anesthetized, a small amount of hair is shaved above and behind the ear to be implanted. An incision is then made behind the ear. The surgeon may use either a traditional incision or a "minimal access" incision. The
traditional incision is about 6 inches long and requires a healing period of about 3-4 weeks. The
minimal access incision is about 2 inches long and requires a healing period of only about one week because it does not cut through the temporalis muscle. The type of incision the surgeon uses will depend on his/her preferred technique, training, device type, and/or individual patient variables. A small depression is created in the bone behind the ear for placement of the internal receiver/stimulator portion of the implant. A tiny opening is made into the cochlea, and the electrode array is inserted. The area around the electrode array is sealed, and the incision is sutured. Swelling is minimized by the application of a pressure bandage. It is also important to understand that everyone reacts differently to surgery. Immediately following surgery some patients might experience nausea, vomiting or slight dizziness. Following recovery, pain is usually minimal and may be managed by over-the-counter pain relievers. Many individuals feel comfortable returning to their normal activities within a few days following surgery. It is typically recommended that cochlear implant recipients refrain from overexertion through physical activity (i.e. manual labor of any kind, sports) for 4-6 weeks after surgery.