Cochlear implants at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center

Changing patients' lives through cochlear implant surgery since 1988

A cochlear implant is different from a hearing aid because it bypasses the damaged cochlea and sends electrical sound signals directly to the auditory (hearing) nerve. There are two parts to the device—an internal portion, placed during outpatient surgery, and an external processor, programmed weeks after the surgery. The external processor, which looks much like a large behind-the-ear hearing aid, captures sound from the environment, processes the sound into digital information and then sends this data to the electrode array inside the cochlea.

Cochlear implants are not a cure for hearing loss. The cochlear implant recipient continues to have a severe or profound hearing loss when not wearing the speech processor. However, cochlear implants can help a person understand speech. Children and adults can benefit with the use of a cochlear implant. 

Why choose Ohio State for cochlear implant treatment?

At OSU Hearing Professionals, our philosophy is simple: To provide individuals with quality, state-of-the-art audiological services while maintaining a caring, understanding patient atmosphere. We continue to expand the scope of our practice as technology moves forward and, as a result, offer many services related to the diagnosis and rehabilitation of the auditory system.

Our first adult cochlear implant surgery took place in 1988. Since that time, our physicians have performed hundreds of implant surgeries on adults and children. The children of our program are referred to audiologists who specialize in providing services to the pediatric population.

 Learn more about how Ohio State is leading the way in ENT innovation


Cochlear Implant Evaluation

Please bring your current hearing aids and earmolds with you to your first visit. The audiologist will test your hearing with and without hearing aids. If you do not have hearing aids, or if your current hearing aids are no longer appropriate, we may loan hearing aids to you or you may need to purchase them. It may be necessary for you to wear the loaner hearing aids for a certain period of time before testing can be completed. 

It may take several visits to determine if you are a candidate for a cochlear implant. We encourage you to bring close family members or friends to your appointments. 

Once your audiologist determines that you meet the candidacy criteria for the implant, you will be scheduled with an otologist. If the otologist finds that a cochlear implant is medically appropriate, the otologist's assistant will obtain insurance authorization for the procedure. Once authorization is obtained, surgery will be scheduled. 

The internal cochlear implant array is surgically placed during an outpatient visit to the hospital. The fitting of the external processor is performed approximately four weeks after the surgery.

Cochlear Implant Follow-Up

Several follow-up appointments are needed to adjust the external processor over a period of three to four months. After the initial adjustment period, patients are typically seen on an annual basis.

New users need to practice listening to achieve maximum performance. Factors that contribute to the success of the implant include length of deafness, speech and language development, medical history, support from family and friends and patient motivation.

The adults in our program are typically very pleased with their implants. Within a few months of surgery, many have enhanced lip-reading abilities, improved hearing when wearing their processor and an increased awareness of environmental sounds. With time and practice, many recipients use the phone to some degree and their word recognition ability may improve significantly compared to pre-operative performance with hearing aids. Our implant team is made up of audiologists and neurotology surgeons who see patients at the Eye and Ear Institute location and at our Dublin office.

If you would like to know if a cochlear implant is the right step for you, contact us to schedule a cochlear implant evaluation with an OSU hearing professional.

Preserving hearing with cochlear implants

Dr. Edward Dodson explains the advancements in cochlear implants.

Our Cochlear Implant Care Team


Brenda Hall, AuD

Audiologist, OSU Hearing Professionals

Brenda Hall, AuD, graduated from the University of North Carolina with a master’s degree in audiology. She received her doctoral degree from Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2010. She has been a member of the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery since 1991. Her interests include working with patients with cochlear implants and hearing aids.


Melissa Schnitzspahn, AuD

Audiologist, OSU Hearing Professionals

Melissa Schnitzspahn, AuD, received her bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from The Ohio State University in 1998 and her master’s degree in audiology from Ohio State in 2000. She obtained her doctoral degree in audiology from the Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2008. Melissa joined the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery here in 2001, and her interests include hearing aid dispensing and cochlear implants.


Laura Feeney, AuD

Audiologist, OSU Hearing Professionals

Laura Feeney, AuD, earned both her bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science and her doctoral degree in audiology from The Ohio State University. She has been with the Department of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery since 2007. She is board certified by the American Board of Audiology and is a member of the American Academy of Audiology and the Ohio Academy of Audiology.


Debby LaPrete, AuD

Audiologist, OSU Hearing Professionals

Debby LaPrete, AuD, received her bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University and her master's degree from the University of Cincinnati. She graduated from the Arizona School of Health Sciences with her doctoral degree in audiology in 2009. Debby has worked at Ohio State since 1994, and specializes in providing services to recipients of cochlear implants and auditory brainstem implants.

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