Young boy with cochlear implant

Image courtesy of Cochlear Americas

A cochlear implant is the only implantable device that the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has approved to help restore the absence of a human sense: hearing.

At one time, cochlear implants were only for people with profound hearing loss in both ears. Cochlear implants, and who is candidate for them, have evolved over the last several decades.

Improvements in surgical techniques and electrode design and functionality, now allow people with moderate to profound hearing loss, and even single-sided deafness, to be considered for cochlear implants.

Additionally new technology has led to the development of smaller sound processors and more connectivity options for those patients interested in connecting to devices such as smart phones and music players.

How Cochlear Implants Work

Cochlear implantation requires the combination of:

  • An electrode array implanted within the inner ear (cochlea) by a highly specialized surgeon
  • An external speech processor worn behind the ear and/or on the side of the head programmed by an audiologist

These two parts communicate with one another by a magnetic connection through the skin.

Illustration of how cochlear implants work

Unlike hearing aids, which send amplified sound through the entire hearing system, cochlear implants provide electrical impulses that directly stimulate the hearing nerve.

The electrical pulses bypass the damaged area within the cochlea, thereby providing the opportunity for better sound perception. Over time, with consistent use and practice, the patient can interpret these pulses as intelligible sound and eventually intelligible speech.

The University of Maryland Medical Center's Cochlear Implant Program, a part of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology, specializes in comprehensive services for individuals of all ages. As part of the Maryland Cochlear Implant Center of Excellence (MCICE), we offer a patient-centered program that is grounded in research and enhanced by our academic connection with faculty and students throughout the University of Maryland System.

Who Is a Candidate?

Cochlear implantation is an option for individuals of all ages.


This procedure is FDA-approved for individuals as young as 9 months of age with profound hearing loss in both ears and for children who are at least 5 years old with single-sided deafness. For children, outcomes with a cochlear implant are impacted by:

  • Cause of hearing loss
  • Age of implantation
  • Consistency of use
  • Aural rehabilitation


Adults that are having difficulty understanding speech with correctly fit hearing aids may also benefit from the use of a cochlear implant. In adults, outcomes with a cochlear implant are impacted by:

  • Hearing history
  • Medical history
  • Communication method
  • Commitment to wearing and practicing with the cochlear implant

Cochlear Implantation Process

For individuals interested in starting the cochlear implant process, a comprehensive hearing test is the first step. The results from this testing will determine if the individual's hearing loss meets the FDA guidelines for cochlear implantation.

If these guidelines are met, the individual will be scheduled for a cochlear implant candidacy evaluation.

Our team of audiologists can evaluate your hearing but we also accept recent hearing tests from outside facilities. Results can be faxed to 443-462-3037.

Once results are received, a cochlear implant audiologist will review the information to determine if the individual should be scheduled for candidacy testing.