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Programs & Services

Cochlear Implant Program

The Cochlear Implant Program at Phoenix Children’s offers multidisciplinary care from a team of specialists dedicated to helping families at every stage of the cochlear implant process. 

The cochlear implant team works with families and other providers to provide comprehensive, well-coordinated care for children with hearing loss. Our team includes pediatric otolaryngologists (head and neck surgeons), audiologists, psychologists and speech-language pathologists who are specially trained in cochlear implantation.

Your family is an essential part of the care team. Cochlear implants are a lifelong journey and require dedication and determination, initially from family members and eventually from your child. We look forward to getting to know you, understanding your family’s needs and goals, and providing your child with a personalized treatment plan that helps them achieve “total communication.”

Comprehensive Evaluation

The first step of the process is a cochlear implant evaluation. This involves:

  • A consult with each member of the cochlear implant team
  • Evaluations to ensure your child meets the criteria for a cochlear implant
  • Imaging, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT)
  • Referrals to other specialists, if appropriate – These could include a genetics specialist or ophthalmologist (eye specialist), for example

After your child has completed all necessary evaluations and examinations, the team meets to share important information and discuss their findings with each other. They may reach out to your child’s pediatrician and school for more insight. 

The team will decide whether your child is a good candidate for cochlear implants and talk to you about their recommendations. Not every child who goes through the evaluation is a good candidate for cochlear implants. Also, some families decide not to pursue cochlear implantation, opting instead to continue with hearing aids, pursue manual communication (American Sign Language) or use other forms of communication. 

The cochlear implant team will support you and your family, whatever therapies and strategies you decide to pursue. 

Cochlear Implant Surgery

Cochlear implantation happens under general anesthesia. The procedure may be unilateral (one-sided) or bilateral (two-sided). Operating time varies from 90 minutes to four hours, depending on whether one or both ears are implanted. An incision is made behind the ear to place the implant.

Most children recover within an hour or two of the surgery and go home the same day.

After the Implant

Your child will have a follow-up appointment with the surgeon about two weeks after the surgery in the Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic at Phoenix Children’s.

After this appointment, your child will need to come to the audiology department so we can activate and program the cochlear implant. It is important to know that your child will need to wear the cochlear implant processors for 10+ hours per day if you move forward with a cochlear implant.

Children who are successful with cochlear implantation participate in therapy after surgery and see an audiologist and speech-language pathologist on a consistent schedule. These sessions can be completed here at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with our speech pathologists, who specialize in teaching children to listen and develop speech skills. Children can receive speech pathology from other providers in the community, such as:

  • Arizona Early Intervention Program
  • Desert Voices 
  • Phoenix Day School for the Deaf 
  • Zimmerman Speech Therapy and other community-based providers

Other factors that influence how well a child does with cochlear implants include:

  • The degree of hearing loss your child has
  • How long your child has had hearing loss
  • The cause of hearing loss
  • How long your child has used hearing aids (if at all)
  • The level of support the family provides the child
  • The child’s language skills before implantation  

Our team will work with your child as they grow and develop, and tailor our care to their unique needs. We are here to provide the support you and your child need for success!

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