Recovering from Cochlear Implant Surgery

Congratulations!  You (or your child) are on your way home from a successful cochlear implant surgery.  What now?  Here are some tips to make recovery as smooth and comfortable as possible.


First and foremost: follow your surgeon’s advice.  DO NOT ask Dr. Google or your friends in a support forum.  They may be very nice people, some of them may even work in the medical field, but they do not know YOU.  They are not YOUR doctor, informed about YOUR specific case, history, how the specifics of the surgery went, etc.  Just don’t do it.  Call your doctor’s answering line.  That’s what it’s there for.  Don’t be afraid to be a “pest.”  Your health is worth it!


What’s normal:

Swelling — at the incision site, the ear, even the whole side of your face/neck

Sore throat


Changes in your ability to taste, or a metallic taste in your mouth (this should resolve)

Head feeling full or stuffy

Blood coming out of the ear (this can even start a day or two later)

Changes in sleep pattern or appetite

Children becoming more clingy or tearful than usual (or really any behavioral change — surgery is a big deal!)

Some pain or discomfort that can be controlled with over the counter medications or a prescription from your surgeon

Tinnitus — sounds of rushing, ringing, or banging in your head that do not come from and outside source.  (Read more about tinnitus HERE)


What’s not:

Excessive, foul-smelling drainage or bleeding around the incision site

Incision site coming apart or any part of the implant visible outside of the head

Signs of infection (fever, incision site hot to the touch), uncontrolled vomiting, etc.

Slight facial paralysis that does not resolve over time

Any change (on this list or the “normal” list above) that does not get better a day or two after surgery (it may not be 100% back to normal, but you should see recovery and progress)

Excessive pain or discomfort that cannot be controlled with medication

When in doubt, contact your healthcare provider.  


Things that can help make recovery more comfortable:

Some people find regular pillows uncomfortable first the first few days because they don’t want to lay directly on the incision site.  Try a neck pillow or even laying on a stuffed animal instead.

Stock your freezer!  Prepare some meals ahead of time so you’re not having to worry about what’s for dinner.

Have some button-down shirts ready so you can avoid pulling clothing over your head for the first few days.

Remember that you will not be allowed to get the incision site wet for a few days — no washing your hair for a little while!

You should not re-insert your old hearing aid in the newly implanted ear.

Many people are ready to go back to work or school after just a few days of rest, but don’t push yourself if it’s taking you longer to recover.  In either event, avoid contact sports or excessive physical activity in the immediate post-surgical period.


Other guides that may be helpful to you:

The Cochlear Implant Process: From Identification to Candidacy to Activation and Beyond!

What to Expect On Activation Day

What to Expect In the First Weeks After a Child’s Cochlear Implant Activation

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