Cochlear Implants

Spokane Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic has been providing a full range of services for the deaf and hard of hearing for over fifty years. In 1993 we expanded our services to include a cochlear implant program. Cochlear implants are designed to provide sound to people with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears. Typically the implant is presented as an option to patients who get either no benefit or very limited benefit from properly fitted hearing aids. There are many steps in determining whether you might be a candidate to consider a cochlear implant.

What is a cochlear implant?

A cochlear implant has two main components, an internal device and an external speech processor. The internal device is put into place during a surgery. The internal device has a digital processor that sits just under the skin and an electrode ray that extends into the cochlea. The external speech processor is either a Behind-the-Ear (BTE) or a body worn type device with a headpiece that connects to the head with a magnet, which then communicates with the internal device.

How does a cochlear implant work?

Speech and environmental sounds are picked up by the speech processor and changed into a digital signal that is sent to the headpiece. The headpiece then transfers that signal to the internal device, which stimulates the hearing nerve.

What does a cochlear implant sound like?

The cochlear implant does not sound like natural spoken speech. When a cochlear implant is first hooked up, many adults report that speech sounds unnatural, and difficult to understand. However, over time, your brain is able to process the sound into meaningful speech. The speed that this happens is different for every cochlear implant patient. You will spend time with your audiologist making adjustments to the speech processor to optimize speech understanding.

How is a cochlear implant different from a hearing aid?

cochlear implant spokane wa When a person has a hearing loss, the inner ear is damaged. A hearing aid amplifies sound and delivers this loud sound to the inner ear with a hearing loss. In other words, loud sound is being pushed through a damaged system. It is similar to turning the volume up on a broken speaker. Candidates for a cochlear implant have such a significant amount of damage to the inner ear that turning the volume of a hearing aid up has very little use. A cochlear implant bypasses this damaged part of the inner ear and directly stimulates the hearing nerve. 

Cochlear implant surgery:

The cochlear implant surgery takes place at Deconess Hospital in Spokane. Typically the surgery takes from 2-4 hours. The surgery is outpatient, and you will go home the same day as the surgery.

Cochlear Implant Team


Neil Giddings, MD – Otology and Neurotology

Michael Olds, MD – Otology and Neurotology

William R. Schmitt, MD – Otology and Neurotology


Kami Fehlig, AuD, CCC-A
Pam Polensky- Bonser, AuD CCC-A
Jonathan Ziegler, Au.D
Jill Heaton, Cochlear Implant Assistant

Cochlear implants we provide:  At Spokane ENT we work with a few different companies to provide the cochlear implant.

Advanced Bionics Corp.

Bionic Ear

Cochlear Corp.