Coronavirus Updates & Hospital Visitor Policy

Cochlear Implant Program

Girl wearing cochlear implant device

MUSC Health is home to the largest cochlear implant program in South Carolina, serving children and adults for nearly 30 years. Since 1991, we have implanted over 1,400 ears.

Our team takes an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate each case and determine the best treatment plan to address hearing loss. While the cochlear implant is not a cure for deafness, it is a safe and effective device to treat severe-to-profound hearing loss by stimulating the hearing process. Our program includes the implant procedure, rehabilitation therapy, and support services. Please contact Elizabeth Camposeo, AuD for more information.

How Cochlear Implants Work

The cochlear implant is a medical device designed to enable a person with a severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss to detect speech and environmental sounds. The internal portion of the device is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear with an electrode array inserted into the hearing organ (the cochlea). The device bypasses the damaged hearing organ and stimulates usable nerve fibers that go to the brain. Through this stimulation, people can often learn to listen and understand speech and environmental sounds. The external portion of the device includes a sound processor, cord, transmitter, and microphone and is worn like a behind-the-ear hearing aid.

Benefits of the Cochlear Implant

Cochlear implant recipients may feel more connected to the world around them. They can hear environmental sounds like birds singing, telephones ringing, and cars approaching. They can also learn to detect and understand speech. This connection to their environment often results in feeling less isolated and more independent and self-confident.

Children who generally benefit the most from cochlear implants are those who are deaf for a short period of time, in good auditory training programs, and have families who are strongly committed to the training process. Children continue to experience hearing improvement for years after the implant is inserted.

As for adults who have already developed spoken language, the cochlear implant provides an opportunity to regain personal communication. It enables the ability to have a sense of security, more freedom, and an opportunity to be more socially engaged. While there is no definitive test to predetermine the extent of results, nearly all patients show significant hearing improvement.

Cost of the Cochlear Implant

Virtually all insurance carriers provide full or partial coverage for the cochlear implant and its associated costs. MUSC Health’s Cochlear Implant team will submit documentation to your insurance carrier for approval. Our financial counselor will work with you and your insurance company to help secure the maximum insurance coverage available.

FDA Candidacy Criteria

Candidacy determination can be a complex process. The guidelines below serve as a broad indication for cochlear implantation and not as the only cases for which a cochlear implant would be appropriate.

  • Children 12 months of age and older with limited or no progress in auditory development
  • Adults 18 years of age and older with limited or no benefit from hearing aids
  • Individuals with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in one or both ears
  • Individuals in good general health
  • Individuals willing and motivated to be actively involved in therapy

If you are interested in learning more about cochlear implant candidacy requirements, please contact us. We will provide additional information, ask you to complete a cochlear implant survey, and discuss treatment options with you.

Candidacy Evaluation Process

Procedures to evaluate candidacy for a cochlear implant may include the below items. After assessments are complete, the MUSC Health Cochlear Implant team will determine if the individual is a candidate and will schedule surgery if appropriate. If the patient is not a candidate, alternative options will be discussed.

Adults

• Audiological evaluation (hearing assessment)
• CT scans or MRI (specialized x-ray to evaluate the hearing anatomy)
• Medical evaluation (determines if the patient has conditions that would prohibit surgery)

Children

• Sedated auditory brainstem response and otoacoustic emissions tests (objective measures of hearing sensitivity)
• Speech-language evaluation (assessment of communication abilities with hearing aids and discussion of communication goals)
• Cognitive and psychological evaluation (understanding expectations and coping strategies for the patient and family)
• Developmental evaluation (assessment of developmental milestones and capacity to learn)
• Educational assessment (child’s school is contacted regarding educational placement, support, and training on cochlear implants)

Hearing for the First Time with an Implant

Approximately three to four weeks following surgery, the patient will return to MUSC Health for fitting and programming of the cochlear implant. This is the first time the patient will be able to hear with the cochlear implant. Your audiologist will use a computer to set the sound levels to produce audible sounds.

During the first six months, the patient returns frequently for reprogramming to help the ear adjust to the new stimulation. Usually after the first six months, the patient will return every six months for the first three years to fine tune and update the sound processor’s software. After three years, patients return on an annual basis.

Importance of Therapy

For both children and adults who have been without sound, therapy is critical for successful use and understanding of speech.

Adults may have a lifetime of auditory memories to draw upon and usually learn to recognize the new speech sounds in a relatively short period of time. Therapy consists of listening to individual speech sounds, words, phrases, sentences, and conversations; practice to improve communication situations and counseling.

Children often have little or no listening experiences. Without intensive speech therapy and education, these children will not benefit from the cochlear implant. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), “access to optimal educational and rehabilitation services is important to adults and is critical to children to maximize the benefits available from cochlear implantation.”

Realistic Expectations

It is difficult to predict the degree of hearing improvement a cochlear implant may produce, as every patient is different. While each person’s experience with the cochlear implant is different, adults can expect better detection of everyday sounds, improved face-to-face communication, increased ability to understand speech, and greater confidence to interact and socialize. Research shows that a shorter duration of hearing loss means the cochlear implant is likely to have greater success.

With intensive aural habilitation therapy, children can often achieve the same benefits as adults. Some children can understand speech by listening, without visual cues, while some will require lip reading and/or sign language to help them to understand speech. People who have not developed listening skills by their teenage years are unlikely to do so by receiving a cochlear implant. 

Resources & Troubleshooting for Cochlear Implant Users

Please contact the device manufacturer for step-by-step instructions to troubleshoot an issue, provide replacement equipment, and assist with new orders.

Advanced Bionics Corporation
877-829-0026
800-678-3575
CustomerService@AdvancedBionics.com

Cochlear Americas Corporation
800-483-3123
Customer@Cochlear.com

Med-EL Corporation
888-633-3524
Implants-usa@medel.com

More care team members

Nevitte Morris, MS, CCC-SLP, Cert. AVT | Speech-Language Pathologist
Anita Cheslek | Administrative Assistant
Debra Poinsette, MBA | Administrative Assistant
Elise Wilson | Administrative Assistant

Contact Us

Elizabeth Camoseo, AuD for more information.