Cochlear implant (CI)

A teenage boy wearing a cochlear implant does some colouring.


Watch Casey's story

Find out why 14-year-old Casey decided to get a cochlear implant.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant is a type of implanted hearing device that converts sound into electrical signals. It is fitted during an operation.


How does a cochlear implant work?

Instead of simply making sounds louder (as with a conventional hearing aid), the cochlear implant provides a sensation of hearing by bypassing the damaged hair cells in the cochlear and directly stimulating the auditory nerves by using electrical signals.

Cochlear implants have two parts – an internal receiver which is implanted surgically under the skin behind the ear, and an external part which is worn like a hearing aid. This part is known as a speech processor and includes the microphone.
A girl wearing a cochlear implant.


Would a cochlear implant help my child?

If your child has a severe to profound permanent deafness and cannot hear speech sounds with hearing aids, you may be thinking about them having a cochlear implant. Cochlear implants are suitable for children who gain limited or no benefit from hearing aids. 


At what age can my child have a cochlear implant?

In general, the evidence suggests that the younger a child is when they receive their cochlear implant, the more likely they are to get the most benefit from it. Although it’s important to remember that it takes time to find out the exact level of a child’s hearing loss and to assess their suitability for a cochlear implant. It is now common for children to be implanted before 12 months of age.

Older children may also be candidates for cochlear implants, including those who have become deaf after learning to speak (e.g. following meningitis), as well as those who have a progressive or acquired hearing loss and who now receive less benefit from their hearing aids.

A baby boy with cochlear implants plays with his brothers and sisters.


How do I find out if a cochlear implant is suitable for my child?

If you haven’t been offered a referral, think your child may benefit from a cochlear implant, and would like to find out more, ask your ENT consultant, paediatrician, or audiovestibular physician for a referral.

For more information including the assessment process, surgery, tuning and ‘switch on’, growing up with an implant and safety considerations, download our free resource Cochlear Implants - A guide for families (1365 kb). [pdf]


What do cochlear implants sound like?

This section gives links to other websites that use software to simulate what a cochlear implant may sound like.

University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service has simulations of different voices and music.


Comparing cochlear implant models

Below you will find links to external websites that contain information and comparison charts for cochlear implant manufacturers and models. 

Cochlear Implant Online

Website originally founded in 2001 by a 14 year old cochlear implant wearer in the USA that has developed into a huge resource of information. Cochlear Implant Online


Website and blog written by cochlear implant wearers in the USA sharing stories and information about the technology. cochlear implant HELP


Families' stories

A range of stories from families of deaf children and young people explaining their experience of making their decision about whether or not to have a cochlear implant.


Cochlear implantation and deafblind children

Sense has joined forces with The Ear Foundation to develop a publication, Deafblindness and Cochlear Implantation.

A useful guide for both families and professionals, it is the first publication to focus on cochlear implantation (CI) solely for congenital deafblind children. It  includes personal stories from parents on their experiences of the whole process of CI from assessment, through to day-to-day issues, and the outcomes families have observed in their children.

The post-operative learning process for the deafblind/Multi Sensory Impaired (MSI) child is also charted along with the close collaboration between the cochlear implant team and the education team to enable appropriate follow up activities to develop within the child’s familiar territory.

A copy of the booklet costs £9 and is available to order online or by phone from Sense’s Information Service on 0845 127 0060 or by emailing

Watch our family story

Parents Kevin and Jane tell us about life with their deafblind son, Gethin.


Cochlear Implant Research Forum

Invitation to join the Ear Foundation Research Forum

As part of its work in supporting deaf adults, children and their families and in working with professionals, the Ear Foundation has, for many years, had a lively and topical research programme.

If you would be interested in being involved in research, either to influence the way particular research is developed and carried out, or to be involved in a project, The Ear Foundation would like to hear from you. Visit for further information.