Patient Care


Our cochlear implant program, established in 1990, is the only program of its kind in Suffolk County that provides this high-tech treatment for profound deafness. We work in close collaboration with members of Stony Brook's clinical program in speech, language, and hearing. Thanks to this collaboration, the lives of the patients with deafness treated at Stony Brook have been dramatically changed for the better—now that after years of hearing loss, they can hear again.

Cochlear implantation represents a new technology that allows profoundly deaf patients to hear. It is a high-tech form of surgery for patients with profound bilateral deafness who cannot benefit from conventional hearing aids.

The operation, which can be done on an outpatient basis, involves implanting an electronic device through the mastoid bone, behind the ear. The implant has an electrode array that is tunneled into the inner ear, next to the hearing nerve. When connected to an external microprocessor that resembles a hearing aid, the implant analyzes incoming sounds and produces a series of electrical impulses that directly stimulate the hearing nerve.

Cochlear implant surgery has achieved splendid results in selected patients, and is suitable for treating profoundly deaf adults and children 1 year of age and older. Certain patients have been able to gain the ability to hold conversations—often without lipreading; to speak on the telephone; and to hear environmental sounds.

One of our patients whom we treated with cochlear implantation was more than delighted when he was able to hear his newborn grandchild for the first time.

Cochlear implant surgery requires a highly-trained multidisciplinary team of specialists to provide the necessary postoperative programming of the implanted device and the rehabilitation that patients need on entering the world of sound.

What a patient treated at Stony Brook said about her cochlear implant:

I started to lose my hearing when I was 35, nearly 25 years ago. At work I was very bitter … I was angry, isolated, all by myself. Amazingly enough, since I've had the implant I can now hear normal speech for the first time. I'm able to understand speech. I can hear my son, I can communicate better, I can talk to people, I can socialize with people.

I can also hear the birds chirping—I hear the different types of songs, too. That is something new for me. I can hear the hissing of the gas, the creaking of the floor—things I couldn't hear before with the regular hearing aid I had, an extremely powerful one. Now I can even hear the wind blowing.

How It Works

Before going into details of how a cochlear implant works, it is important to understand the structure of the ear and how it works.

Sound waves enter the ear canal and impact the ear drum (tympanic membrane). After the ear drum picks up the sound, it transmits sound wave vibrations through the hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes). The hammer, anvil, and stirrup make up the chain of three middle ear bones. The stirrup passes the vibrations to the inner ear fluids within the cochlea. Fluid waves travel through two-and-a-half turns of the cochlea, bending the cochlea hair cells as the fluid goes by. The hair cells correspond to the frequency of the original sound waves, initiating signals within their corresponding nerve endings prior to sending them to the brain.

A multichannel cochlear implant is an electronic device developed to restore auditory sensation through electrical stimulation of the auditory nerve for individuals age 12 months and older with severe to profound sensorineural hearing impairment. The stimulation provides a wide range of auditory information needed for recognizing environmental and speech sounds to expand communication ability.

A cochlear implant is designed to bypass damaged or degenerating cochlear hair cells (within the inner ear that correspond to the sound wave frequencies). The hair cells are the "spark plugs" of the inner ear nerve endings. The vast majority of nerve deafness is usually the result of non-functioning hair cells. However, with the nerve endings still purposeful in most of those cases, it is possible for cochlear implants to work.

1. Sound is received by microphone.
2. Sound is sent from microphone to speech processor.
3. Speech processor analyzes and digitizes the sound into coded signals.
4. Coded signals are sent to the transmitter.
5. Transmitter sends the code across the skin into the internal implant.

6. Internal implant converts code to electrical signals.
7. Signals are sent to the electrodes to stimulate the remaining nerve fibers.
8. Signals are recognized as sounds by the brain producing a hearing sensation.

View the video presentation
What Are Cochlear Implants?
provided by

For consultations/appointments for cochlear implantation at Stony Brook, please call 631-444-4121.

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