How cochlear implants work

We design cochlear implants to replace the function of the inner ear that isn't working. Learn how implant systems process sound.

Cochlear recipient Holly doing homework at the kitchen with her mother

What you'll find on this page

  • How cochlear implants produce clearer sound.
  • The two parts of a cochlear implant system.

How cochlear implants produce clearer sound

Cochlear implants replace the function of damaged sensory hair cells inside the inner ear.

Unlike hearing aids, which mostly make sounds louder, cochlear implants may further improve the clarity of sound and enhance your ability to understand conversations.1,2,3 

A cochlear implant system has two parts:

  • the external sound processor

  • surgeons put the implant under the skin and attach it to an electrode array that’s placed in the inner ear.

Together, the sound processor and implant bypass the part of the ear that isn’t working, sending sound straight to the hearing nerve.

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Please seek advice from your health professional about treatments for hearing loss. Outcomes may vary, and your health professional will advise you about the factors which could affect your outcome. Always follow the directions for use. Not all products are available in all countries. Please contact your local Cochlear representative for product information.

For a full list of Cochlear’s trademarks, please visit our Terms of Use page.

Views expressed are those of the individual. Consult your health professional to determine if you are a candidate for Cochlear technology.


  1. Fitzpatrick EM, Leblanc S. Exploring the factors influencing discontinued hearing aid use in patients with unilateral cochlear implants. Trends in Amplification. 2010, 14; (4): 199–210.
  2. Rumeau C, Frere J, Montaut-Verient B, Lion A, Gauchard G, Parietti-Winkler C. Quality of life and audiologic performance through the ability to phone of cochlear implant users. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 2015, 272: 3685–3692.
  3. Runge CL, Henion K, Tarima S, Beiter A, Zwolan TA. Clinical outcomes of the Cochlear™ Nucleus®5 cochlear implant system and SmartSound™2 signal processing. J Am Acad Audiol. 2016, 27; (6): 425–440.