Clinics

Cochlear Implant Program

What is a cochlear implant?

Cochlear implants are small, surgically implanted electronic devices that can help give Deaf or hard-of-hearing children a sense of sound. Your child may benefit from a cochlear implant if they have permanent hearing loss and cannot hear or understand speech well enough with a hearing device.

Each cochlear implant has 2 parts:

  • Device under the skin: A surgeon implants one part of the device under the skin behind your child’s ear.
  • Device worn on the ear: Your child wears a device on their ear called a speech processor. The processor turns sounds into electrical signals and sends the signals to the device under your child’s skin. The implant uses these signals to directly stimulate the hearing nerve. After your child heals from surgery, an audiologist turns on and programs the speech processor. At regular visits, the audiologist adjusts the pattern of electrical signals so your child’s brain understands them better. 

What is the Cochlear Implant Program?

The Cochlear Implant (CI) Program is a team of audiologists, aural habilitation specialists, psychologists and surgeons. We work with you to decide if a cochlear implant will help your child.

Once a child has a cochlear implant, we want them to get the best result possible. We provide follow-up services to age 21. We work with patients who received their cochlear implants at Seattle Children’s and at other hospitals.

What’s special about the Cochlear Implant Program at Seattle Children’s?

Seattle Children’s has the only cochlear implant program in the state designed just for babies, children and teens. We have a lot of experience with children who have complex medical problems as well as those who only have hearing loss.  We work to make sure that every patient can realize their full potential to hear and communicate with their cochlear implant. 

Our team includes nationally recognized leaders in the field. They work to improve cochlear implant outcomes by conducting research, publishing in the literature and training the providers of the future. We give up-to-date care based on the most current and well-supported evidence.

  • We bring together experts in different specialties to care for your child. This approach is called multidisciplinary care. Our team is experienced working with babies, children and teens.

    • Audiologist: Measures your child’s hearing levels with and without hearing devices. The audiologist will also assess your child’s understanding of speech with their devices. After surgery to place the implant, the audiologist turns it on and programs it. Our audiologists hold doctorate degrees and the certificate of clinical competence (CCC-A).
    • Aural habilitation specialist: Assesses how well your child can listen and communicate with hearing devices. If your child has a cochlear implant, the specialist teaches listening and language skills to improve their speech and communication. It takes extensive therapy to get the full benefit of an implant. Our aural habilitation specialists hold the certificate of clinical competence (CCC) in speech and language pathology or audiology. Many also are certified as listening and spoken language specialists (LSLS) and auditory-verbal therapists (Cert AVT).
    • Psychologist: Helps your family understand the benefits and limitations of a cochlear implant. This mental health specialist helps your child and family explore feelings and thoughts about hearing loss and ways to manage it. Our team psychologist has a doctoral degree in psychology.
    • Otolaryngologist: Reviews your child’s medical history, tests and X-rays. This medical doctor talks with you about the surgery and medical issues related to cochlear implants. Our doctors have taken specialized fellowship training in cochlear implants after their general otolaryngology residency.
  • We provide these services from childhood to young adulthood:

    • Hearing evaluations, including speech understanding
    • Medical evaluations
    • Surgery
    • Device activation
    • Ongoing programming of implants
    • Training to build listening skills
    • Speech and language evaluations
  • Because we are national research leaders, our patients have the option to take part in research studies. Members of our team lead some of these studies. Our research partners at the University of Washington conduct others. We let our patients know about research studies they can take part in.

    One current study looks at how babies and children learn to hear with their cochlear implants and how this affects their ability to develop spoken language. Learn more.

    What we learn through research affects the care we give all children. Learn about current research studies related to hearing and communication.

  • We offer services and support to help your child live a full, active life. These include:

What to Expect

Deciding if a cochlear implant is right for your child starts with a first visit to help your family understand:

  • What a cochlear implant is
  • How it works
  • What is does and does not do

Many factors determine outcomes and success. We explain the series of appointments you will need for a full assessment and what happens at each.

If your family decides to move ahead, we schedule a full assessment. During the series of visits, you and your child meet with different members of our team. Some children may also need to see other experts at Seattle Children’s.

During these visits we find out:

  • What your child can hear with and without hearing devices
  • The structure of your child’s inner ears
  • Any other medical conditions
  • What you and your child expect from an implant
  • Your child’s and family’s ability to take part in follow-up and therapy

If our team recommends a cochlear implant, we will schedule your child for surgery. If an implant is not the right choice for your child, we will talk with you about other options.

Resources for Patients and Families

Scheduling an Appointment With the Cochlear Implant Program

Providers, see how to refer a patient.

Who’s on the team?

Our team includes:

Audiologists

Aural habilitation specialists

  • Terra Boulse-Archaro, MA, CCC-SLP
  • Vincci Chan, MA, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVT
  • Kelli Koehnen, MS, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVT
  • Ashley Ryals, CCC-SLP
  • Rebecca Ramirez, MS, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVT
  • Sandy Robinson, MS, CCC-SLP, LSLS Cert AVT
  • Nancy Watson, MS, CCC-A

Otolaryngologists

Psychologist

Paying for Care

Learn about paying for care at Seattle Children’s, including insurance coverage, billing and financial assistance.