Following the cochlear implantation operation, people often have many questions regarding when they can carry out activities and what to do before they are seen again in the cochlear implant department.
This leaflet aims to answer as many of those questions as possible. We cannot give an answer for every scenario or situation, therefore, if you have a query that is not covered here, please contact us.
What happens next?
The surgical site may be tender for up to 7 to 10 days after surgery. Any pain may be controlled by an analgesic such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. There may also be some swelling around the site, this will also settle as the scar heals.
A date for initial stimulation of the implant will be arranged for about three weeks after the operation.
You are encouraged to wait a minimum of 48 hours before gently washing your hair. You should use a gentle shampoo and avoid getting water up your nose. The scar will be checked by the surgeon 1 week after surgery.
There may be some of the glue remaining over the scar. You are encouraged to remove the glue leading up to your ‘Switch on’ appointment by gently wiping with clean water.
If you need to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Open your mouth, and do not pinch your nose.
You should try to avoid the scar(s) coming into contact with animals and family pets to avoid infection.
Hair should not be dyed or permed for the first 3 months.
What happens if I experience pain or infection?
If you suspect any infection in the implanted side, please contact the North East Regional Cochlear Implant Programme (NERCIP) for advice (available 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday).
You may be asked to attend either The James Cook University Hospital’s ENT casualty (10am to 4pm Monday to Friday) or ENT casualty at the Freeman hospital.
If it is outside of these hours, and you feel it is an emergency, then please attend your local urgent service such as a walk-in centre or your nearest Accident and Emergency.
After my operation, when can I…?
|When can I…?
|Wash my hair
|Go swimming* (external processor must be removed unless you have a waterproofing accessory)
|Return to work – this depends upon your type of work; your keyworker will have advised you prior to surgery.
|On average, one week
|Return to school
|On average, one week
|Take an aeroplane flight
|Play contact sports for example, boxing, kick boxing, rugby, ice hockey
|Play vigorous sports for example, football, netball, hockey, squash
|To be discussed with
your surgeon depending
upon progress – any other physical activity please ask your surgeon
|Skiing on an artificial ski slope
|Go skydiving or parachuting
|Theme and activity park rides (excluding high speed and extreme force see ‘what to avoid’ section)
*Some CI users have balance problems if this is the case they should not swim alone. It is possible to become disorientated under water and they must learn how to identify the direction of the surface. If goggles are worn, ensure they are not too tight over the receiver.
What activities must I avoid?
Diving from a diving board
This can cause trauma and put the internal implant at risk.
Rides involving high speeds and extreme forces as this may dislodge the internal implant
Martial arts involving throwing
Must not touch Van der Graaf generator in school science lessons
Must not touch cathode ray tube TV screen (LED or LCD are fine)
Do not touch or crawl under electric fence as may damage internal implant
Toys causing deliberate electric shocks
What medical treatments must I avoid?
- Electrosurgery – including dental surgery
- monopolar never in head and neck region
- bipolar never within 2cm of implant
- Therapeutic Diathermy – never to be used
- Ultrasound diathermy is acceptable below head and neck only
- Neurostimulation never over cochlear implant
- Electro-convulsive therapy – never
- Electric hay fever relievers – never
- Electrical and electronic medical devices
- If electric current may pass through head and neck – never
- If electric current passes through another area of the body – must check with NERCIP first
For information on medical treatments which can sometimes be carried out on someone with a cochlear implant, please see your implant user manual or contact the clinic for further advice.
In most instances, clarification from the NERCIP must be sought prior to this.
- TENs machines (pain relief)
- Devices for electronic pain therapy
- Dental treatments for example, ultrasonic tooth cleaner
- Face lifts and hair transplants
The external part should be removed…
- Gamma camera
- If experimenting with static electricity in school science lesson
- When playing vigorous or contact sports where a knock to the head is a possibility, please use a helmet to protect the internal implant**.
- Gymnastics scrum cap provides some protection
- Sailing and canoeing. Please use a helmet to protect the internal implant**
- Swimming – unless waterproof or wearing waterproof aqua accessory
- Water sports
- Theme and activity park rides (excluding high speed and extreme force see ‘what to avoid’ section)
- Skydiving and parachuting
** Helmets should be of high quality. It will help to protect the implant from any blows. It is advisable to try different makes and types to check comfort and fit. It is especially important that it fits around the implant site to reduce pressure on the receiver and scar.
Airport and air travel …
- If travelling alone, please mention to airline staff that you have a hearing loss.
- When you know you intend to fly, please contact NERCIP by phone, email or text and ask for the ‘Air travel information letter. We can post or email this to you.
- Remove your speech processor and switch it off to walk through the full-body doorframe at the airport security system.
- The internal part may activate the alarm so you could ask for a hand held scan to be done instead.
- Please use the disability check-in desk and carry your cochlear implant ID card at all times. After your operation, your cochlear implant ID card is given to you before you leave the hospital.
- Remove your processor during take off and landing and when the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign is illuminated.
- Follow airline instructions regarding use of electronic devices.
This is not an exhaustive list, for further information please refer to your implant user manual or contact the clinic or your implant company for advice.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.