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Having a Cochlear Implant : Initial Tuning Session

The implant itself is a passive device and can only be activated when the external components of the equipment are worn. The speech processor is the key component of the external equipment. Four weeks after surgery the patient attends the Cochlear Implant Clinic and the speech processor is issued. The speech processor activates the internal electrodes and enables the individual to hear sound.

A Clinical physicist will program the speech processor to meet the individual’s needs. This is done by connecting the processor to a computer and asking them to listen to a series of electronic sounds (beeps and buzzes) of different frequencies (pitch). The level at which the individual hears these sounds is recorded on the computer and this information is programmed into the speech processor. In the case of children, this information is gained through play activities. For adults and children this session can take up to 2 hours. All of this information is combined to make the individual a unique programme.

Woman programming speech processor on computer (left) and woman and child engaged in play activities (right)

Now that the speech processor has its first programme the new cochlear implant user can hear! This can be a very exciting, frightening or emotional experience for everyone involved. Initially the sounds may seem very strange. The new user needs time and help to interpret these sounds. This will require careful monitoring over the first few months and their processor may need to be reprogrammed many times to ensure that individual requirements are met. In the early stages, regular appointments are required. Over time, the frequency of these appointments is reduced.

Patients require lifelong support.