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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this surgery and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about the surgery and how you can help.
As sound moves through the ear canal and strikes the eardrum, sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. These vibrations move the tiny bones in the middle ear, causing fluid inside the inner ear, or cochlea (CO-klee-uh), to move the hair cells. The movement of the hair cells triggers electrical impulses, which are sent to the hearing nerve inside the brain. The brain processes the impulses and you hear the sound.
When a child has severe to profound hearing loss, it usually means that there is damage to the hair cells inside the cochlea. If the electrical impulses can’t get beyond the hair cells to the hearing nerve, the child is unable to process or hear the sound.
A cochlear implant is a device designed to bypass the damaged parts in the inner ear. It can provide a sense of hearing to a child with severe to profound hearing loss. The cochlear implant does not restore normal hearing.
The cochlear implant consists of both internal and external parts. The "implant" is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear and electrodes are placed inside the inner ear or cochlea. The external parts are a speech processor, which looks like a hearing aid, and a cable/coil that sends a signal to the electrodes and is held in place by a magnet.
When sound enters the microphone on the outside of the ear, the processor captures the sound and converts it to electrical signals. The external transmitter sends the signals to the internal electrode inside the cochlea. The electrode stimulates the hearing nerve by skipping the damaged hair cells in the cochlea and sending the signals directly to the hearing nerve where the brain perceives the signals and interprets the sensations as sound.
A cochlear implant is different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids basically amplify sounds, or make them louder—but a child who has a profound hearing loss may be unable to process the sound information no matter how loud the sound is. Instead of making the sound louder, the cochlear implant bypasses the damaged part of the ear—the hair cells inside the cochlea—and sends the sound sensations directly to the hearing nerve in the brain.
When general anesthesia is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the surgery. One business day before your child’s surgery, you will receive a phone call from a nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m.
(Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.) Please have paper and a pen ready to write down these important instructions.
For children older than 12 months:
For infants under 12 months:
For all children:
You will need to register your child at the Same Day Surgery Center. You and your child will be called to meet with a nurse, who will take your child’s vital signs, weight and medical history. As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the sleep medication is given.
Waking Up/Going Home
Your child will stay in the recovery room until the anesthesia medication wears off. The length of time it will take the medication to wear off will vary, as some children take longer than others to become alert.
Our Cochlear Implant Team, which consists of the cochlear implant surgeon, audiologist (hearing specialist), speech/language pathologist, child development specialist and social worker, will evaluate your child before surgery to determine if an implant is right for your child, and afterward to check your child’s progress and set therapy goals. Your child will need your dedicated support to learn how to use the new "sound" that he or she will receive through the cochlear implant. Your child will need frequent programming sessions with the audiologist, as well as hearing therapy with the speech/language pathologist. Your child also will need intensive hearing and speech therapy through early intervention or school-age services, with professionals who are trained in the development of hearing skills with a cochlear implant. Your follow-through at home to support your child’s therapy goals will be an important part of your child’s success with his or her cochlear implant.
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the surgeon needs to know about, please call the Department of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology at Children’s Hospital before the appointment and ask to speak with an audiologist. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.