How cochlear implants work

Cochlear implants replace the function of the inner ear that isn't working correctly. Learn how implant systems process sound.

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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

  • the internal implant which is placed under the skin by a surgeon. The implant contains an electrode array that is inserted into the cochlea.

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

Back in touch with the sounds of life

Hearing loss forced Karl Klenner to withdraw from social situations with people around him because he felt that he couldn't contribute as he wanted to.  

Now, Karl has the confidence to get more involved with co-workers, friends and family. He enjoys being part of conversations that are clearer and easier for him to follow.

Watch his story.

"When I have the N7 on, I am participating in the hearing world. I love the sounds of nature. I love the sounds of the animals, I can hear the sheep, I can hear birds fly past..."*¹

- Karl, Cochlear™ recipient

Find a hearing implant specialist near you


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.

*1 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.