How Implants Work

A cochlear implant is made up of pieces worn outside the ear and pieces surgically placed inside the ear.  During surgery, a cut is made behind the ear and the internal piece is secured under the skin and hair. The electrode array is put into the cochlea, stimulating the hearing nerve.

Schematic of an ear with a cochlear implant.

 1.  External hardware (includes microphone, speech processor, coil/cable and battery) 

  • The microphone captures sound in our environment. 
  • The speech processor converts the environmental sound into a digital signal. 
  • The signal is sent through the cable to the coil
2.  Internal receiver 
  • The signal is sent across the skin to the implant, where it is converted to electrical energy and decoded.  
3.  Electrode array 
  • The electrical energy is sent to the electrode array within the cochlea, where it   stimulates the hearing nerve.  
4.  Hearing nerve 
  • The stimulation of the hearing nerve is perceived as sound.