NCIP Adult Programme

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.

Cochlear implant diagram.
  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.

External device.

External device.

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 09 373 7956 or , or your local Ear Nose & Throat Specialist or Audiologist.

Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (Adult) Programme Administrator on 0800 500 405 or , or your local Ear Nose & Throat Specialist or Audiologist.

NCIP Adult Programme, more information

Life after a Cochlear Implant

Raewyn Moffit

My implant means independence, increased confidence and a massive reduction in stress.”

Life after a Cochlear Implant

Lynne Kelly

I like that I can hear and control my own voice and nobody says ‘I beg your pardon’ to me anymore. I feel like I am living in the real world and taking part in all it offers.”

Life after a Cochlear Implant

Ray Cooney

Our marriage relationship is like it was prior to the hearing loss, we can have conversations when travelling, we joke and laugh together more, we can discuss things spontaneously, we can phone each other when one is away from home.”