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Cochlear Implant Program

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The Cochlear Implant Program at Children’s National Medical Center provides expert advice and care for patients and their families throughout the process of cochlear implantation, from initial screening to post-operative support. The Cochlear Implant Program is part of Children’s Division of Otolaryngology and works in close collaboration with Children’s Division of Hearing and Speech.

Patients Who Benefit from a Cochlear Implant
A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that helps transmit electrical stimulation to the inner ear to aid hearing. A cochlear implant is an alternative for children with bilateral (in both ears) severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss (hearing loss caused by damage to the sensory cells and/or nerve fibers of the inner ear) who do not benefit from conventional hearing aids.

Our team evaluates patients for a cochlear implant based on several criteria, including audiological, medical, developmental, and psychosocial factors. A thorough evaluation to determine if a child is a candidate for cochlear implantation generally requires multiple visits:
  • Assessment by a pediatric otolaryngologist (Ear, Nose, and Throat physician)
  • Follow-up and treatment by an audiologist, including hearing aid trials
  • Assessment by a speech therapist
  • Evaluation by social services of psychological and social support available
We perform between 20 and 25 cochlear implants each year. At any time, the program serves many patients who are at different stages of the cochlear implantation process.

After Your Child’s Procedure

After the implant of a cochlear device, the program team continues to support a child and family to help the patient progress successfully in hearing and language development. Post-operative services include:

  • Auditory habilitation/rehabilitation
  • Language intervention
  • Coordination between parents, schools, and the implant center

Children’s Cochlear Implant Program team members are fluent in Spanish and interpreters are available for every session with our specialists. All of the audiologists in the program are skilled in American Sign Language (ASL). The program also has speech language pathologists with auditory-verbal training in addition to more traditional therapies.

Normal Hearing Milestones for Children

About 1 out of 22 babies are born each year in the United States with a hearing impairment. Most often, the parents are the first to detect hearing loss in their children.

Without screening or testing by a specialist, however, hearing loss may not be noticed until the baby is more than 1 year old. If hearing loss is not detected until later years, there is no stimulation of the brain's hearing centers. This can affect the development of hearing, and can delay speech and language, affect the child’s performance in school, social and emotional development.

Because of these risks, many health organizations including the National Institutes of Health and the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend universal infant hearing screening. This means all newborn babies should be screened for hearing loss.

The program specialists recommend that children be screened and if hearing loss is diagnosed, treated according to the following timetable:

By 1 month All infants’ hearing should be screened
By 3 months If infant failed the 1-month hearing test, he or she should have a diagnostic hearing test by 3 months
By 6 months If needed, begin treatment of hearing loss. Treatment may include:
  • The fitting of hearing aids
  • Enrollment in early intervention rehabilitation services
  • A medical work-up
By 12 to 18 months Cochlear implantation for those children diagnosed with bilateral severe-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss and determined an appropriate candidate for the procedure.

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- Departments & Programs - Children's National Medical Center