Cochlear Implant Cost

Written by: Staff

A cochlear implant is a mechanic device designed to help people with serious or full hearing loss help hear again and highly recommended for those who often do not see results from a hearing aid.

Surgically implanted inside of the inner ear, the device will stimulate the auditory nerve inside the brain, and a headset, while worn on the outside, will allow someone to hear voices and sounds.

Contrary to a hearing aid, which amplifies a sound and makes it clearer, this implant, instead, will bypass the injured parts of the auditory system and directly stimulate the nerve of hearing.

Cochlear Implant Cost
Cochlear Implant Advanced Bionics” (CC BY 2.0) by david_shankbone

How much does a cochlear implant cost?

The cost of a cochlear implant, including both the implant and the surgery, can cost upwards of $35,000 to $65,000+ without any health insurance coverage, but the costs can be much higher, often as high as $100,000+, when the external pieces and additional visits are factored in.  This price will greatly depend on your health insurance policy, your geographical region, the facility the surgery is performed in, the doctor you use and the billing inclusions.

While health insurance policies generally cover a cochlear implant, as long as it’s deemed medically necessary, you may still be responsible for additional co-pays and/or meeting your deductibles.  To know for certain, talk with your insurance company and doctor’s office to know more about what you will be responsible for once billed.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology notes that a cochlear implant can be much more than a hearing aid, often costing as much as $100,000 when the implant, evaluation, surgery, device and the rehabilitation care is factored in.  They go onto say that fortunately, most private insurance companies, including Medicare benefits, will cover the costs of the procedure.

The additional costs to consider

Post-operative testing:  Prior to the visit, before your physician even considers the surgery, you will need a host of post-operative tests, including hearing evaluations and often, a CT scan and special x-ray.  Depending on your circumstances, this evaluation and CT scan can cost upwards of $1,000+ without insurance coverage.

External pieces: Aside from the implant itself, you will also need to budget for the external pieces, which include the transmitter, a device that costs about $100, and the speech processor, a costly device that sits behind of the ear that can range anywhere from $7,500 to $11,000+.  Essentially, the speech processor, working similarly to a hearing aid, will help analyze the sound, whereas the transmitter will send the signal to the implant beneath the skin.

Programming visits and follow-up visits:  Later, after the surgery completes,  the implant will need to be programmed multiple times throughout the year, with each visit ranging anywhere from $125 to $350, depending on the clinic and the geographical location.  Days and weeks after the surgery, your doctor will want you to come back to the office to examine the surgical location and to help you manage and learn the implant.  Depending on the billing practices, these follow-up visits may or may not be included in the estimates mentioned prior.  According to the Johns Hopkins Hospital, you will need to prepare for at least three to four reprogramming appointments starting one month after the surgery, while the rest of your life, you should be prepared to be seen at least every year after the two years past your surgery date.

Batteries for the implant:  A smaller cost to consider, the batteries, will be required as your implant will need them in order to function properly.  Depending on the implant, most will use the standard “AA” battery, which often cost about $0.75 each, depending on the brand.

Repairs and maintenance in the future:  Repairs and/or maintenance needs to be budgeted for once the implant’s warranty expires.  In the case of an extended third-party warranty, this could be an additional $500+ to extend the manufacturer warranty by a few years.

The surgical procedure

The cochlear implant procedure is almost always performed inside of your local doctor’s office in an outpatient setting under general anesthesia.  During the procedure, a slight incision is created directly in back of the ear to help expose the mastoid bone, the bone of the skull behind the ear which contains open, air-containing spaces.  Once this middle space is opened, another opening is then created in the cochlea and the implant is inserted.  After it’s inserted, the electronic device at the foundation of the electrode array will then be inserted beneath the skin behind the ear.

A few weeks after the initial surgery, you will then need to go back to have your microphone, signal processor, and implant transmitter outside of your ear placed.  During this appointment, your doctor and the professional team will adjust the settings and advise you how to use your device by listening to sounds via the implant.  Depending on your circumstances, some people may find it will take longer to fit as it will call for more training.

Cochlear implant surgery risks

While the procedure is deemed relatively safe, there are still risks you may need to be concerned about, including a nerve injury, never damage, dizziness/balance problems, loss of hearing, ringing in your ears, leaks of fluid around the brain, an infected device, and/or meningitis, an infection around the brain membrane, according to

How does a cochlear implant work?

These implants, according to American Academy of Otolaryngology, will bypass the damaged hair cells and convert all speech and environmental sounds into electrical signals, essentially sending these signals to the hearing nerve.

The implant, made of two components, will have an internal component that needs to be surgically implanted beneath the skin and will consist of a smaller electronic device that’s connected to the electrodes which are inserted inside of the cochlea, the spiral cavity of the inner ear.  The second component, which will be the external component, will be worn behind the ear and will consist of a microphone, speech processor and a battery compartment.

The microphone worn outside of the ear will allow the speech processor nearby to help translate it into specific electrical signals which are then transmitted across the skin via radio waves to the internal stimulator.  This stimulator is then designed to send the signals to the electrodes inside of the cochlea, stimulate the auditory nerve fibers that send this information to the brain, where it’s eventually interpreted as a meaningful sound.

Tips to know

The FDA does regulate cochlear implants for both children and adults and will only improve them after clinical investigations.  With this being said, be certain to talk with your otolaryngologist in regards to which implant they recommend as well as the side effects, safety issues and performance of the device.  With this information, it’s also best to talk with your health insurance company to see if they cover this certain brand as these companies will have restrictions.

A cochlear implant is only recommended for those who do not benefit from a hearing aid.  Patients will have to be at least 12 months or older unless childhood meningitis is responsible for the deafness.

Benefits of cochlear implants

Source:  WebMD

Cochlear implant candidates

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