Process to get a cochlear implant

Step 1: Assessment

The comprehensive assessment is aimed at determining whether or not an individual is a suitable candidate for a cochlear implant. The assessment involves consultations with a multi-disciplinary team and consists of the following:

  • Assessment by an Audiologist
  • MRI & CT scans
  • Speech & Language Assessment (children)
  • Communication Assessment (Adults)
  • Consultation by an Ear-, Nose- & Throat (ENT) specialist
  • Consultation with a psychologist
  • Other invesitgations might be indicated by the team
  • On completion of the assessment process, a decision will be made by the PCIU team as well as with the individual on whether or not to continue with the cochlear implant

Step 2: Surgery

An experienced surgeon and theatre staff performs the surgery.

The surgery is performed under general anesthesia by the ENT surgeon. The surgeon makes a small incision behind the ear and inserts the internal device underneath the skin and into the cochlea. The audiologist performs specialized testing at the time of surgery to ensure the functioning of the implant and to test the response of the hearing nerve to electrical stimulation. Most children are able to go home on the day of the surgery while adults will be discharged the day after the surgery.

Step 3: Activation

Comprehensive support following the operation is available:

  • The initial fitting of the external device and activation or “switch on” of the cochlear implant occurs around four weeks after surgery by the Audiologist.
  • Weekly programming (mapping) of the cochlear implant takes place during the first 4-8 weeks. The maps are adjusted using a computer, and the results can be measured.
  • Accurate feedback to your Audiologist will aid in fine-tuning your map to perform most functions optimally and automatically in different listening environments. Communication between the cochlear implant user and the Audiologist is imperative to the overall success of the fitting process. This is the reasoning behind frequent post-activation follow-ups.
  • Your Audiologist might recommend the use of assistive listening devices and other technologies to supplement the cochlear implant and to address specific needs.
  • Learning to listen with the cochlear implant is generally a slow, but rewarding process. Participating in listening and communication practice activities will expedite the process.

Step 4: Long term support

A cochlear implant is a lifelong commitment – not only from the cochlear implant user, but also for the cochlear implant team.

The PCIU provides inveterate support for the cochlear implant user, the family as well as other professionals involved to allow the achievement of optimal outcomes.

Support is provided in terms of:

  • Programming (‘mapping’) the device at regular intervals – this is a lifelong process
  • Support needed for children in school and transitions in education
  • Access to rehabilitation for both children and adults
  • Ongoing assessments to monitor progress
  • Providing access to the latest technology
  • Supply of loan equipment and some replacement parts
  • Referrals to other professionals involved in sustained care where indicated.


Contact Details

Pretoria Cochlear Implant Unit
University of Pretoria (Main Campus)
c/o Lynnwood Road and Roper Street
Communication Pathology Building, Room 3-32

Tel Office: 012 420 3684
Email Office: