Hesperian Health Guides

Who can be helped by a cochlear implant?

Every day 20,000 people visit the HealthWiki for lifesaving health information. A gift of just $5 helps make this possible!

Make a giftMake a gift to support this essential health information people depend on.

HealthWiki > Helping Children Who Are Deaf > Appendix B: Cochlear implants and hearing > Who can be helped by a cochlear implant?

The cochlear implant is only given to children who are completely deaf or have very little hearing even with a hearing aid. In some countries, babies as young as 6 months can get cochlear implants. In other places they must be 1 to 2 years old. Cochlear implants do not help people who already have some hearing.

Effect of cochlear implant on hearing

Cochlear implants do not restore hearing. People who receive cochlear implants will still be deaf. The implant's outside microphone and processor send signals to the implant which passes them to the brain. The outside parts are tuned over a period of time to meet each child's needs.

Your child must use the cochlear implant correctly to be able to hear sounds. Even when cochlear implants work well, hearing through an implant sounds different from normal hearing. Some people say that sounds seem flat or 'tinny' — they compare it to listening to a radio station that does not come in clearly. It takes some time and practice for children with cochlear implants to learn to understand the sounds they hear. Children must go to classes to be trained in how to 'hear' with the cochlear implant.

A man, his wife, and 2 children. The woman is speaking.
This child with a cochlear implant can hear the voices of her family members. She has to learn the difference between each person's voice.
Who's talking now, Nami?

The results of the operation, equipment, and training classes are very different for each child. Most children who have a cochlear implant and use it correctly, and who have very good training, will hear and understand sounds. Some children who get cochlear implants will also learn to speak. Other children who have good training and use the cochlear implant correctly may still have difficulty hearing and learning to talk.