What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant provides access to sounds for people with a significant hearing loss who get little or no benefit from hearing aids. It is a highly technical medical device that has internal and external parts and is designed to bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The brain experiences this stimulation as sound sensation.

  1. External speech processor captures sound and converts it to digital signals.

  2. Processor sends digital signals to internal implant.

  3. Internal implant turns signals into electrical energy, sending it to an array inside the cochlea.

  4. Electrodes stimulate hearing nerve, bypassing damaged hair cells, and the brain perceives signals; you hear sound.

​​The visible parts of a cochlear implant are called the speech processor and transmitting coil. These consist of a microphone, batteries and a mini-computer that analyses incoming sounds and converts them into digital signals. These signals are then transmitted by radio waves through the skin via the coil to the internal implant.


Are you eligible?

You may be eligible if:

  • A severe to profound hearing loss has been diagnosed.

  • Hearing aids are unable to help your level of hearing loss.

  • You are becoming socially isolated.

  • Your hearing loss means you are unable to work or your job is under threat.

  • You are unable to communicate effectively.


What you can hear?

An audiogram, as seen below, is a graph of your hearing. It provides information on the softest sounds that a person can hear. The banana shape indicates all the speech sounds when they’re spoken at normal conversational volume. When your hearing thresholds are plotted, the speech and environmental sounds that fall below the line are audible while sounds above the line cannot be heard. If your hearing falls into the severe to profound loss area at the bottom of the graph, then you may not be able to hear all conversational sounds even with strong hearing aids. A cochlear implant may then be a viable alternative.



The implant operation lasts for two to three hours and carries the normal risks of any surgery requiring general anaesthetic. The surgical process will be explained in detail during assessment.


What do you do next?

If you have not been referred and you would like to be assessed for a cochlear implant, contact one of the following groups:


Northern Cochlear Implant Programme (Adult)

Cochlear Implant Coordinator on 09 579 2333 or adultci@hearinghouse.co.nz , or

your local Ear Nose & Throat Specialist or Audiologist.


Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (Adult)

Programme Administrator on 0800 500 405 or reception@scip.co.nz, or

your local Ear Nose & Throat Specialist or Audiologist.

The Northern Cochlear Implant Trust holds contracts with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education for the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme. Patients eligible for a publicly funded cochlear implant receive services from providers listed below: