Providing Advanced Hearing Technology and Expert Care

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that provides meaningful sound information to people who receive limited benefit from hearing aids.   Stony Brook Medicine is one of the few medical centers in the region that performs cochlear implantation. 

The Stony Brook Cochlear Implant Team
The Stony Brook Team is comprised of the Surgeon, David Schessel, MD, PhD, Audiologists and Speech Language Pathologists. Other specialists including Social Work, Neuropsychology, Genetics and Developmental Pediatrics are available at Stony Brook for consultation when needed.  These highly trained healthcare professionals work together to provide comprehensive services that improve the lives of the recipients and their families.   

David Schessel, MD, PhD, is board certified in Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery, Neuro-Otology and Skull Base Surgery.  He has been in academic practice specializing in diseases related to the ear for over twenty years.  He has worked extensively with cochlear implants and implantation surgery in adults and children throughout his career.    The Audiologists have more than 30 years of combined experience with preoperative and postoperative cochlear implant assessments and programming. The Speech-Language Pathologists attend specific educational courses and training to gain the additional skills necessary to perform cochlear implant evaluations and therapy.     

 Dr. David Schessel
David Schessel, MD, PhD. 
"I feel sincerely fortunate to have been able to work with such a wonderful, life changing device.  I see individuals who have lost the ability to hear, regain their connection to people once again.  To be able to once again communicate as they are used to.  It also offers children, born with hearing loss, the opportunity to learn to communicate verbally and function in the hearing environment." 

How do we hear normally?

Sound waves travel into the ear canal and vibrate the ear drum, middle ear bones (ossicles) and inner ear. The cochlea is a snail shaped part of the inner ear that contains thousands of tiny hair cells. The hair cells change the vibrations into signals that stimulate the hearing nerve and send impulses to the brain for it to become meaningful sound.

How does a cochlear implant work?

Damage to the tiny cochlea hair cells will cause a disruption in the transmission of the signals to the auditory nerve. The resulting hearing loss is called a sensorineural hearing loss.  The cochlear implant is designed to compensate for the damaged cochlea hair cells and stimulate the auditory nerve directly. 

 The cochlear implant system has two components:

  • Externally worn microphone, sound processor and transmitter
  • Implanted receiver and electrode array

The microphone captures incoming sound and sends it to the speech processor, where it is translated into a distinctive electrical code. The coded information is then transmitted across the skin to the receiver and electrode array.  The electrodes stimulate the auditory nerve fibers, causing electrical impulses to be delivered to the brain, where they are interpreted as meaningful sound.

Who can benefit from a cochlear implant?

Adults and Children who have:

  • Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears
  • Limited benefit from adequately fit hearing aids
  • A strong desire for improved hearing 

What is the Hybrid Cochlear Implant?

This implant is for adults with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in the high frequencies and normal to moderate hearing in the low frequencies.The hybrid amplifies the low frequencies similar to a hearing aid, however the high frequencies are stimulated electrically like a traditional cochlear implant.  The hybrid is designed to preserve the natural acoustic sound and improve the high frequency hearing to near normal levels.

What happens before the surgery?

The Audiologist will evaluate the hearing with and without hearing aids.  Dr. Schessel will perform a medical evaluation that may include an X-ray and blood work.  Most children and some adults receive a speech and language evaluation.  These tests determine if candidacy criterion is met.  However, there are many factors that need to be considered when making the decision to go ahead with cochlear implantation.  Each member on the Team will guide potential recipients through every aspect of the decision. 

What can I expect from the surgery?
The surgery is performed under general anesthesia and takes about 2-3 hours. Most people go home on the same day and resume normal activities within a week.  Complete healing at the implant site takes several weeks.

What follow-up is necessary?
The speech processor is initially fit approximately 3 weeks after the surgery.The recipient and audiologist work together to program the electrodes and make a Map that is set into the processor. Regular sessions are needed as the person adapts to the new sound. For children, speech and language progress is monitored, comparing performance before and after the implant. The cochlear implant specialists maintain close contact with the child’s school. Speech therapy for adults is available when needed. 

How much will my hearing improve after the implant?
Cochlear implants have a very high success rate. Thousands of people have received cochlear implants, and almost all have achieved higher levels of performance than before implantation. However, it is difficult to predict the exact outcome for each person. Success depends on factors such as duration of deafness, degree of hearing loss prior to implantation and age at implantation.

Will my insurance cover the procedure?
Cochlear implantation surgery is covered by most medical insurance policies. Our staff will discuss insurance with you and obtain a preauthorization prior to surgery.

How do I make an appointment?
In order to serve our patients better and ensure we allow enough time to fully evaluate each person's candidacy, our cochlear implant specialists will need some past history. Please complete the appropriate history form and sign the release of information listing all of the Audiologist, ENTs and hearing aid dispensers you have seen over the last 5 years.  Fax the forms to (631) 444-4582.  When we receive the previous results, we will call you for an appointment.