Here we try to answer questions that get asked regularly. If you still have other questions, please feel free to contact us.

Hearing aids amplify sounds so that the residual part of the ear can use it to hear. A cochlear implant transforms sounds into electrical current that is used to stimulate the hearing nerve directly and bypass the damaged parts of the cochlea.
Each person is unique and so is their hearing loss and their anatomy. We can never truly say what things sound like for each individual user. The brain moulds itself according to the input it receives. Research has indicated that the brain takes the input and use it. Adults sometimes report that the sound is originally very high pitched and electronic but over time it becomes familiar. The sound of a cochlear implant is usually the only sound a young child will hear and that will be his “normal”. What sounds “natural” or “normal” to a person with typical hearing is not “normal” to a person with hearing loss.
Cochlear implants are not experimental devices. Cochlear Implants have been approved by the FDA in America and other by similar bodies in the rest of the world. It has been successfully used since the early 1980’s.

Cochlear implant surgery is not brain surgery and does not go into the brain. During the surgery, a small incision is made behind the ear. The surgeon lifts the skin away from the underlying bone, and uses surgical drills to create a “well” for the internal implant components to sit in between the skin and the skull. At no time is the brain casing breeched or compromised in any way.
Cochlear implants provide a wide range of sound information. Outcomes vary amongst individuals.

You will possibly hear most sounds from soft to loud sounds. Cochlear Implant users report that they can hear footsteps, doors closing, ringing telephones, car engines, barking dogs, lawn mowers, birds and various other environmental sounds. You will also be able to hear your own voice better and be able to control the volume of your voice better, even in the presence of other sounds.

Together with time and the right rehabilitation, most people is able to hear and understand more speech than with hearing aids. Many cochlear implant users are able to use the telephone and enjoy music.
The cochlear implant:
  • will NOT provide normal hearing
  • will NOT guarantee intelligible speech or age appropriate language skills
  • will NOT guarantee educational success or increased performance in the work environment
Nonetheless, with constant use of the cochlear implant and continuing training, the sound you will hear through the implant should become more meaningful and should enhance your ability to communicate.
It is not possible to predict how well any child will progress with a cochlear implant.

A child’s progress will be influenced by many factors, for example:
  • the age of onset of the hearing loss
  • the duration of the child’s hearing loss
  • family and educational support
  • family’s and child’s motivation
  • child’s level of speech language development
  • child’s cognitive development and learning style
  • existence of a cochlear abnormality
  • regular and continuous of use of the device
The internally placed implant unit is designed to last a lifetime and involves only the initial surgery. The cochlea is already adult size at birth and most of the skull structures are fully grown by the age of 2 years. The electrode is designed to accommodate for skull growth.

The externally worn speech processor, which is responsible for sending information to the internal electrode, can be upgraded as technology improves.
No. There has been very little change in the design of the surgically implanted unit in relation to the history of cochlear implantation.

Significant developments have been shown in the way in which the processor makes use of speech (speech coding strategies), and delivers the signal to the internal unit.

The speech processor can incorporate new technology when available.

For children, there is a small and precious window of time to give them access to hearing if you desire listening and speech. It is more important to deliver stimulation to the hearing nerve and auditory centers of the brain. The longer the duration of the hearing loss, the longer it takes to achieve optimal results and learn to hear again.
Providing you are medically fit, no one is too old. The oldest person in the world to receive a cochlear implant was 99 years old.

Outcomes are better for children born deaf who receive their cochlear implant (s) before 18 months of age. Children as young as 6 months of age can receive cochlear implants.
The day of your initial activation will be life-changing. The initial activation are generally scheduled two to four weeks after implantation. Anticipation of this important day may be filled with hope, excitement, and varied expectations.

When your cochlear implant system is first activated, the objective is to find a comfortable volume level across the frequency (pitch) spectrum so that your first sound program or “map” can be set. If you can distinguish between a loud or soft sound at your first activation appointment, the day has been a success and you have started your hearing “journey”.
A thorough assessment is needed by the cochlear implant team. Please read the section on our website (How to get a cochlear implant) for more detailed information.
No, you can contact us directly. Click here to go to our Contact Us page
Yes, people with cochlear implants can participate in nearly all types of sport activities when they have removed the external equipment (or if the speech processor is water resistant).

The only restriction relates to skydiving and scuba diving (>25m) because significant changes in air pressure are not advised. Partaking in all other activities is unrestricted, even though protective headgear is always recommended during contact sports.
The latest speech processors have waterproof housings available that also makes it possible to swim or shower with your cochlear implant.
Yes. People with cochlear implants can go through the gates, but be prepared that it could trigger the alarms. It is recommended that you carry a card provided by your audiologist which will that you are a cochlear implant recipient.

It is safe to fly with the cochlear implant. There is no need to switch the speech processor off for take-off or landing.
The ability to hear sound with both ears gives the effect of hearing in stereo. It enables you to pick out soft or distant speech, distinguish speech better in background noise and helps to determine which direction sound is coming from.
Since cochlear implants are recognized as standard treatment for severe to profound deafness, most medical aids cover/partially cover the costs. The PCIU will assist you to obtain prior authorization from your medical aid company before the surgery can.
The internal implant carries a 10 year guarantee. Most external speech processors carries an initial 3 year warrantee.

You will have to pay for repairs that are out of warrantee periods or not covered by your insurance.

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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: ptacoch@up.ac.za