Cochlear Implant Surgery: What to Expect at Home

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Your Recovery

A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that can help you hear if you have severe or total hearing loss. Your doctor made a cut, called an incision, behind your ear. He or she placed the implant in the inner ear. The implant does the job of the damaged or absent nerve cells that in a normal ear make it possible to hear (auditory nerves). A small device worn outside the ear turns on the implant. The implant may make a small bump under the skin behind your ear. Your hair may cover the scar, the bump, and the device worn outside your ear.

You may have mild to moderate pain in and around your ear and have a headache for a few days. You may have some popping or clicking in your ear and feel dizzy. This usually goes away within 1 week. The area behind your ear will be swollen for about 3 to 5 weeks. The incision will leave a scar that will fade with time.

The doctor will not turn on, or activate, the implant until the incision has healed. This is in about 3 to 6 weeks. Most people are able to return to work 1 to 2 weeks after surgery. Discuss what is best for you with your doctor. Your doctor may recommend that you work with a speech therapist to learn how to make the most of your implant.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • Rest when you feel tired. Getting enough sleep will help you recover. Sleep with your head up by using three or four pillows. You can also try to sleep with your head up in a reclining chair.
  • Try to walk each day. Start by walking a little more than you did the day before. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk. Walking boosts blood flow and helps prevent pneumonia and constipation.
  • Avoid strenuous activities, such as bicycle riding, jogging, weight lifting, or aerobic exercise, for about 4 to 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay.
  • For 4 to 6 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay, avoid lifting anything that would make you strain. This may include a child, heavy grocery bags and milk containers, a heavy briefcase or backpack, cat litter or dog food bags, or a vacuum cleaner.
  • You may shower and wash your hair about 1 week after the surgery. Keep water out of your ear by using an ear plug or shower cap. Do not put your head underwater until your doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Ask your doctor when you can drive again.
  • Avoid sudden head movements and bending over for the first 2 to 3 days after surgery. These actions may cause dizziness.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), or aspirin, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking those medicines again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Take pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • If you think your pain medicine is making you sick to your stomach:
    • Take your medicine after meals (unless your doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask your doctor for a different pain medicine.
  • If your doctor prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Incision care

  • You may have a bandage over the incision. You can remove the bandage 2 or 3 days after surgery or when your doctor says it is okay.
  • After you remove the bandage, wash the area daily with warm, soapy water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Other instructions

  • Do not blow your nose. If you need to sneeze or cough, do not try to stop it. Open your mouth, and do not pinch your nose.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have a seizure.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of meningitis. These may include:
    • A fever.
    • A severe headache.
    • A stiff neck.
    • Feeling sick to your stomach (nausea) and vomiting.
  • You have trouble thinking or concentrating.
  • Your dizziness gets worse or is very bad.
  • You have increased swelling behind your ear or it feels like fluid is building up.
  • You cannot move parts of your face (facial paralysis).
  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • You have a lot of bleeding from the incision after 4 or 5 days.
  • You have signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You are not getting better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Current as of: July 29, 2016