Pediatric Cochlear Implant Program

The Children’s Cochlear Implant Program at the Children’s Ear Nose & Throat Center provides a full-service approach to cochlear implantation and rehabilitation. Our patients work with a team of experts including surgeons, audiologists, and auditory rehabilitation therapists for improved hearing.

The first step in determining if your child is a candidate is to schedule an evaluation. Please call 512-324-2720 to schedule an appointment for a cochlear implant evaluation. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

About Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant (CI) works differently from a traditional hearing aid, which amplifies sound to louder volumes. Traditional hearing aids work well for individuals with mild to moderately severe sensorineural hearing loss or inoperable conductive hearing loss.

A CI is most helpful for hearing loss in the severe to profound range. At this range, hearing aids are not enough to overcome hearing loss. A CI does the job of the damaged hair cells of the cochlea (the auditory portion of the inner ear). It turns sound into an electrical signal that directly stimulates the hearing nerve. The device consists of:

  1. The internal receiver/stimulator that is surgically implanted
  2. The external speech processor

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The earlier the candidate receives the device, the better the overall hearing outcome. Cochlear implants are designed to last a lifetime. The internal components are designed to work with technological advances over time. The external portion, or speech processor, can be easily replaced as technology improves.

The Evaluation Process

The CI evaluation helps our team determine if your child is a candidate for the device and talk with you about your options. The evaluation process consists of:

  1. At least 3 doctor visits to determine your child’s medical candidacy, to discuss expectations and discuss surgical aspects and risks involved in surgery.
  2. At least 2 audiology visits to determine your child’s hearing status with and without amplification, discuss speech/language/hearing goals for the child and provide information about hearing loss and cochlear implants.
  3. A speech and language evaluation to evaluate your child’s communication abilities, provide information on speech and language development and offer support services as needed.
  4. Imaging (i.e. CT scan or MRI) to look at the inner ear structure and rule out any anomalies.
  5. A Renal Ultrasound or Urine Analysis to rule out any renal issues. The kidneys and ears develop at the same time during pregnancy).
  6. Labs (i.e. blood work) as needed, including testing for any genetic links to hearing loss.
  7. An ophthalmology evaluation to rule-out any visual issues.
  8. Immunizations – a fully UPDATED list of immunizations is REQUIRED. Before surgery, there may be specific vaccines recommended for your child that are special for implanted patients.
  9. A neuropsychological evaluation to assess cognitive and behavioral functioning and to assist in determining the benefit of cochlear implantation and post-operative rehabilitation.
  10. Additional evaluations may be recommended and performed by a psychologist, developmental pediatrician and/or a social worker to aid in the process of cochlear implantation.

After all of the recommended evaluations are complete, the Dell Children’s Cochlear Implant Team reviews the data at a monthly team meeting and will make a recommendation for cochlear implantation or other treatment options.

The Evaluation Appointment

Please bring the following to your initial appointment:

  • Any old hearing tests or medical records pertaining to your child’s hearing loss.
  • Your medical insurance cards.
  • Your child’s hearing aids (whether he/she uses them or not).
  • A spouse, friend or the child’s primary caregiver (if available) to help with child care to allow you to focus on your questions and absorbing information during the appointment.
  • Full immunization records.
  • A list of any questions you may have!

To schedule an appointment for a cochlear implant evaluation, please call 512-324-2720. If you require an interpreter, please request one prior to your appointment.

Surgery & Next Steps

If your child is determined to be a good candidate for CI surgery, our front office staff will review your insurance benefits and help you plan for surgery. Most insurance companies cover the majority of costs, but it is important to discuss this with your insurance company in advance to clarify your plan coverage and avoid unnecessary costs.

During surgery, the implantable portion of the CI device is placed under the skin behind the ear. An electrode array is inserted from the implantable portion of the device to the inner ear. The child normally goes home the same day or the day after the surgery.

The first ‘switch on’ appointment usually takes place around three weeks after surgery. At additional office visits, further adjustments are made as the device settles into the cochlea and as your child gets used to detecting sounds.

With help from a team of professionals, your child will learn to use the CI to hear and understand sounds. Our team will assist you in coordinating this rehabilitation process and ongoing care. We will involve your pediatrician/primary care physician and ensure that he or she is aware of vaccine requirements and signs of possible medical complications relating to the cochlear implant.