Ten Things to Expect After Cochlear Implant Surgery That No One Talks About

There is no shortage of reasons why someone with hearing loss should get a cochlear implant. Many people reach a point where they find hearing aids not working as well as they could be. The natural next step is to explore cochlear implants. 

Life can get to the point where it can be too difficult to follow along with a group conversation. It can be too exhausting to listen in noisy environments. You feel it’s easier to shut yourself from the rest of the world. However, with a cochlear implant, you regain much control over your life at any age, young or old.

What happens when you want to explore the idea of getting cochlear implants?

The conversations around cochlear implants are far and few. One reason is that less than a million surgeries have been done on people worldwide. That is tiny compared to the billions of people on this planet. Bumping into someone with a cochlear implant isn’t something that you see on a day-to-day basis.

There are only four major cochlear implant brands in the world. Many operate independently from your audiologists and work closely within your local hospitals. You rarely discuss cochlear implants with an independent audiologist when they aim to serve you with hearing aids. Similarly, it’s very rare to be at an eyeglasses shop, and they start talking to you about getting laser eye surgery.

When you start to think about cochlear implants and get a referral, you enter a whole different network of people in the hearing care space. The lack of visibility means you don’t often have a chance to talk with others about cochlear implants in your network and those throughout your hearing loss journey. You won’t know much about it until you seriously explore getting a cochlear implant.

When exploring the option, you may have connected with one of the cochlear implant brands at an event or a webinar. But for an independent review, online group chat, or a chance encounter with other cochlear implant wearers, you get the absolute truth. 

Why should you treat a cochlear implant surgery like buying a house?

Getting cochlear implant surgery, like buying a house, should be a significant decision. If you live in a country that’s unable to cover the cost of surgery, you need to make the decision carefully. Even if you have health insurance to cover the surgery cost, averaging tens of thousands of dollars, you still should decide as your life depends on it. 

It is easy to decide when you only hear from one perspective. There is a ton of research that needs to go into the process. Most of the information and research will not come from one source. But your expectations must be managed should you decide to go for cochlear implant surgery.

Like buying a house, you may experience buyer’s remorse. The experience that comes after when your expectations don’t match with reality. This article highlights some of the things that aren’t discussed. Knowing what’s around the corner is essential to help manage your expectations and for your family and friends to understand the authentic results that are to be expected. 

Everyone has different experiences, but it’s essential to have a 360 view of all of them.

What should you take into account

1. Recovery may not be as quick

Some bounce back right after the surgery like they went out for quick errands. Some need more time to recover after a week or two. Be open to the possibility that you may need more time to return to your usual self.

2. Everyone sounds like cartoon characters

Once you can turn on the cochlear implants, your brain starts to process sounds for the first time. No one sounds like they used to. When people speak, it can sound high-pitched. It can be distracting and shocking to hear right after the surgery. You’ll worry that you may never have the natural sound again. 

You can improve the sound quality over time, but it will take practice.

3. There’s more cost

Cochlear implants may be cheaper than hearing aids if your insurance covers almost all costs. Over a more extended period, the investment into a cochlear implant instead of hearing aids can be surprisingly cheaper if you can get many of the costs covered by insurance or government programs. 

However, not everyone can get expenses fully covered. In some cases, when it comes to repairs after the surgery, you’ll be expected to invest your money to keep your cochlear implant running and operating well.

Here are other purchases:

  • Replacing a processor
  • Batteries
  • Repairs

4. It’s not one-and-done

Technologies will likely improve, and so will future cochlear implants. If you are young, your device, after 20 years, will be considered ancient. You’ll want to take advantage of the improved technology. That most likely will require another surgery. 

5. You still need to deal with batteries

Hearing aid batteries can be a pain. The constant need to replace or charge your batteries is something that many people would like to avoid altogether. However, that problem doesn’t go away when you get cochlear implants. You still need to deal with batteries.

6. You won’t magically hear perfectly

You can’t expect to hear right after the surgery, and you can’t expect to hear perfectly with cochlear implants. 

Expect improvement but not perfection. You won’t hear like someone who can listen under a  normal range.

7. You lose any hearing left 

People with profound hearing loss or those with no hearing at all do not mind the idea of having any residual hearing removed. With the little that they had, it didn’t help them at all.

However, more people with moderate to severe hearing loss are getting cochlear implants. For some people, the only way for the cochlear implant to work is to remove the potential ability to hear without the device. 

The hair cells get altered during the surgery to make the cochlear implant work. These hair cells are needed to send sound to the brain. When it is moved, you can no longer hear naturally.

If the cochlear implant doesn’t work, you can’t go back to using hearing aids. 

8. You will need to conduct self-service

One thing about cochlear implants is that you won’t have regular access to a clinic or a place to drop in. Unlike hearing aids, there are plenty of audiologists in some cities to assist you. With cochlear implants, you may only be able to connect remotely with specialists. This means minor repairs and fixes must be done independently without help. 

If you’re not someone with steady hands or technically inclined, the work you need to do to fix your implant will become increasingly frustrating and challenging.

9. You will require listening training

Being able to hear will take effort. You must practice listening, like keeping your body in good shape. Your brain needs to relearn sounds in a new and different way. For some, listening to audiobooks and changing speakers, voices, and accents helps them stay on top of their recovery. 

It’s a task that you can’t slack or take for granted. Effort is needed to get the most out of the cochlear implant. Having a Cochlear implant is a test of patience. You’ll be going through a learning curve to adjust to the device. 

10. It may not work

The skin doesn’t heal well for some, and nerves get too sensitive. Cochlear implants can bring constant pain, headaches, vertigo, or tinnitus after the surgery.

In other cases, the cochlear implant doesn’t work and needs to be removed completely due to complications with the internal parts. Even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says not everyone can benefit. 


Some people can bypass all of these issues that were just shared, and others, it should be no surprise if these experiences occur.

With everything in life, experiences vary. You must continue to explore and understand all of your options. Knowing what to expect puts you in better control of your body, and your decisions will be made with all perspectives at the table.

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