Cochlear implants: current designs and future possibilities

J Rehabil Res Dev. 2008;45(5):695-730. doi: 10.1682/jrrd.2007.10.0173.


The cochlear implant is the most successful of all neural prostheses developed to date. It is the most effective prosthesis in terms of restoration of function, and the people who have received a cochlear implant outnumber the recipients of other types of neural prostheses by orders of magnitude. The primary purpose of this article is to provide an overview of contemporary cochlear implants from the perspective of two designers of implant systems. That perspective includes the anatomical situation presented by the deaf cochlea and how the different parts of an implant system (including the user's brain) must work together to produce the best results. In particular, we present the design considerations just mentioned and then describe in detail how the current levels of performance have been achieved. We also describe two recent advances in implant design and performance. In concluding sections, we first present strengths and limitations of present systems and then offer some possibilities for further improvements in this technology. In all, remarkable progress has been made in the development of cochlear implants but much room still remains for improvements, especially for patients presently at the low end of the performance spectrum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Audiometry, Speech
  • Cochlear Implantation / standards
  • Cochlear Implantation / trends*
  • Cochlear Implants / trends*
  • Female
  • Forecasting
  • Hearing Loss, Central / diagnosis
  • Hearing Loss, Central / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prosthesis Design / trends*
  • Speech Intelligibility
  • Speech Perception
  • Treatment Outcome