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The Cochlear Implant program at Children’s Mercy is a partnership between our ENT and audiology teams. If you have a child who is deaf or hard of hearing, we can help you determine if a cochlear implant is the right choice for your child and assist you through the entire process of evaluation, surgical placement, calibration, and listening and spoken language therapy.

What is a cochlear implant?


A cochlear implant is a medical device that translates sounds into information your child learns to process in a new way. It does not amplify sounds like a hearing aid, but rather bypasses the damaged parts of the ear to connect directly with the auditory nerve.

The device uses an external speech processor, which is worn behind the ear or on the head, that connects with a surgically implanted electrode array in the inner ear. 

Read more about cochlear implants and how they work.

Meet our team


Children’s Mercy has all the specialists you need in one place, so you can be sure that your child is receiving coordinated, comprehensive care. Everything at Children’s Mercy—from our equipment and facilities to our family-centered approach to care—is designed specifically for a child’s unique needs.

Your child may be referred to the cochlear implant team by a primary care provider, ENT physician, audiologist, or other professionals who are working with your family. 

Working with you through the evaluation process


Our cochlear implant team is committed to helping your child hear, listen and speak.  Our team consists of many people to help you decide if cochlear implants are an option for your child.  Here are some of the important people on the implant team:

  • The Otologist/Surgeon provides the medical evaluation of your child’s hearing loss and performs the surgery to place the device into the inner ear.  They may order tests to help determine what caused your child’s hearing loss.  They will order special x-rays that allow them to evaluate your child’s inner ear.  They may recommend that your child be seen by other physicians as well.  The CDC recommends your child receive vaccines to protect against meningitis prior to surgery.

  • Audiologists thoroughly evaluate your child’s hearing loss and determine whether he or she is receiving appropriate benefit from hearing aids or if a cochlear implant may be a better option. If your child undergoes surgery to place a cochlear implant, your child will see the audiologist frequently to program the device so it can provide the best hearing possible for your child. 

  • The Listening and Spoken Language Specialist (LSLS) helps you make the decision by evaluating how your child is doing with their current hearing and what the possibilities are.  The therapist will also teach you how to work with your child with their new way of hearing so they can make the best progress possible.

  • Social workers help you through the process by helping you determine where your greatest needs are.

  • Other professionals, such as geneticists, developmental pediatricians, financial counselors, and many others are ready to work with your family and child as needed.

  • YOU! You are the most important member of our team. Your hard work and commitment to the process and numerous appointments is vital to the success of your child’s cochlear implant.  You are your child’s best teacher!

Your child’s educational team also plays a big role by providing services your child needs.

Children’s Mercy cochlear implant team

Surgeons:

Robert Cullen, MD FACS

James Lin, MD

Bradley Thedinger, MD

Joseph Ursick, MD FACS    

Audiologists:

Jamie Broadbent, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA

Sandy Keener, Au.D., CCC-A

Katherine Kincaid, Au.D., CCC-A

Samantha LaForte, Au.D., CCC-A, FAAA

Listening and Spoken Language Specialist:

Ashley Armitage, SLP, CCC-SLP, LSLS, Cert. AVT

What to expect


The process of getting a cochlear implant is complex. Our team will help you through each step and is available to help answer any questions you have along the way. Here are some of the common questions parents ask about cochlear implants at Children’s Mercy.

Picking an implant: In America, there are 3 cochlear implant companies that offer devices for implantation. We will give you information from all three companies so that you can understand what each of them has to offer.  If there are no medical reasons as to why one particular company’s implant would be recommended over the others, you make the decision on which implant you want your child to have and the audiologist will work on the order. 

Read more about cochlear implants and how they work.

Insurance approval: We work with your insurance company to be sure the device and procedure are covered.

Surgery: The surgery is typically outpatient and routine and may take anywhere from one to three hours. The internal device is placed under the skin behind your child’s ear and the electrode is placed into their inner ear.  Your child may be discharged from the recovery room, may stay on the floor for a few hours to recover, or may be discharged the following morning.  Your child will have a post-operative appointment with the surgeon 1-2 weeks after surgery.

Read more about surgery at Children’s Mercy.

Activation of the implant:  Two to four weeks after surgery, your child will be seen by the audiologist for the initial activation of the implant.  At this appointment, your child’s implant will be programmed and turned on.  They will leave this appointment hearing, so this is a big day!  All children react differently…some smile, some cry, some don’t do anything at all.  It’s hard to know what to expect.  At this appointment you learn how to use your child’s implant, so come ready to learn.

Follow-up appointments:  Your child’s hearing journey has begun and there will be many follow-up appointments to fine tune the speech processor.  It is hard to tell exactly how many appointments will be needed but plan on many, especially during the first year.  Your child will also have appointments with the Listening and Spoken Language Specialist to teach them how to use their hearing. Your child will also have follow-up appointments with the otologist who did your child’s surgery.

It is possible that your child will need another cochlear implant surgery at some point in their life—most likely when they are older adults.  The implant is designed to last a very long time so it does NOT need to be replaced when new technology becomes available.  When changes are made to the external processor, they are made to be compatible with the internal device that is already in place.

Most otology and surgery appointments are held at Children’s Mercy’s downtown Kansas City or Overland Park, Kansas locations. 

Most audiology, implant programming and listening therapy appointments are held at the Children’s Mercy Clinics on Broadway or the College Boulevard Clinic locations. 

To schedule an appointment or obtain further information, call (816) 960-4015. Our administrative assistant can help you or direct your call to an audiologist on the team, who will call you.