Cost of a Cochlear Implant In the US
February 14, 2022

It is no secret that health care costs in the United States are high. Especially when it comes to how much a specific procedure is, it can seem like a guessing game as to how much it is and whether or not your insurance will cover the costs.

If you have ever gone to the doctor and come back with a bill that came as a surprise with how much it was, then you have experienced this first hand. 

One area of increased interest in recent years is in the associated costs of hearing health. The United States population in the coming years will be met with a large influx of elderly individuals. The aging population of the US paired with high medical costs begs the question of how much procedures for this population may cost. 

Below is a closer look at what cochlear implants cost, the factors that go into their cost, as well as everything else you should know about cochlear implants. Whether you are just curious about the cost of cochlear implants or are looking to get some for yourself, this article will hopefully shed some light on the true cost of cochlear implants.

What Contributes To the Cost of Cochlear Implants

Most hearing assistive devices like hearing aids have a clear-cut price since they are non-invasive, but when it comes to implants, you are looking at a much higher cost simply because it requires surgery.

Here is a closer look at the different factors that contribute to the true cost of cochlear implants and why they can cost the same as a luxury vehicle. 

Pre-Surgical Evaluation

When it comes to surgery, it is vital to have a thorough pre-surgical evaluation. This evaluation will ensure the patient is a good candidate for the surgery. It is critical to evaluate their overall health and any specific needs they may have as well.

When it comes to the presurgical evaluation for a cochlear implant, a physician will likely walk you through the risks of the procedure, the expected results, and perform a medical exam. The medical exam tends to be focused on determining if you will be a good candidate and recipient of a cochlear implant. A family history, list of allergies, or other variables that may be important to know before surgery may also be obtained. 

Material Cost

The next factor that impacts the cost of getting cochlear implants is the units themselves. Medical devices tend to be quite expensive because they undergo very long and expensive approval processes to ensure they are safe for the public. 

In the case of cochlear implants, there are two main parts which include the external unit and the internal unit. The internal unit consists of an electrode array, a receiver, and other electrical components that are embedded within the body during surgery.

The external unit consists of a microphone, processing unit, transmitter, and battery. The two units work together to allow the individual to perceive sound. 

Procedural Cost

One of the more expensive aspects of getting cochlear implants comes from the cost of the procedure. Medical procedures are notoriously expensive, which is a significant reason why health insurance is important. 

When it comes to cochlear implant surgery, there are a number of costs that you need to consider for a single operation. The first is that all of the people working on the procedure will need to be paid accordingly. This includes your anesthesiologist, surgeon, and other accompanying personnel assisting with the operating room.

The next cost is in the materials required to conduct the surgery, which includes things like the anesthesia, operating tools, sutures, and the operating room itself. Tack on all of the administrative fees, and it is easy to see why procedures begin to cost so much. 

Post-Operative Cost

Once the operation is complete, you will be sent to a room where you are monitored for some time before being sent home to ensure there are no serious postoperative complications. While you may think your wallet is off the hook, the postoperative period may also require extra funds.  

The main costs associated with cochlear implants post-operation include materials to keep your incision clean, medications, as well as the cost of any additional accommodations you may need, such as heaving your groceries delivered. During the three to six-week-long recovery period, you will experience little to no hearing. This may require you to make accommodations accordingly. 

Activation Appointment

The activation appointment is when the audiologist will provide you with the external unit and turn on the implant for the very first time. During the activation appointment, the audiologist will calibrate the device according to your preferences to ensure that the sounds are not too loud and are as clear as possible.

The initial activation appointment can take some time and, in turn, cost money since you are paying for the time of the audiologist and utilizing the calibration equipment. 

Does Insurance Cover Cochlear Implants?

With a price tag ranging anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 cochlear implants, most people would be unable to afford without taking out a loan. While the up-front cost is very expensive, according to the FDA, many insurances actually will cover cochlear implants since they are considered a standard treatment for severe-to-profound hearing loss. 

While many insurances will cover cochlear implants, it is essential to check with your specific insurer and circumstance to make sure it is covered. Since there is such a high price point, prior authorization is typically obtained by the health center to ensure that the procedure and other associated costs are covered before proceeding with the procedure.

As a patient, this can be reassuring, knowing exactly what it will cost you out-of-pocket rather than having to guess blindly on what insurance will cover until you receive a bill. 

Unforeseen Costs

As with any investment you make, there is the possibility of unforeseen costs. When it comes to a cochlear implant, it has many similar potential pitfalls as traditional hearing aids, but the added complexity of the internal unit presents the potential for more unforeseen costs.

Read about some of the potential additional costs of a cochlear implant here:

Water Damage

It is universally known that electronics and water do not mix well, and this is true for listening devices. The internal unit is completely sealed beneath the surface of the skin, but the external processing unit is completely open to the environment. So, if it is not in a waterproofed enclosure, then it could get damaged by water. 

After some time with your cochlear implant wearing them will become second nature. It isn’t outside the realm of possibility that you may forget to take the external unit off when you go into the pool, take a shower, or do any other activity that could expose them to water. 

Some devices may be waterproof or water-resistant, but generally, it is a good idea to make a habit of removing them any time you may anticipate getting in water. 

Implant Replacement

Another relatively rare unforeseen cost is when the device fails in some capacity. This can either impact the internal or external unit. Typically most manufacturers will offer some kind of warranty to help with the costs. But, if the internal unit fails, then it will most likely require another surgery to get it replaced.

This unforeseen circumstance occurs very rarely. While you most likely do not need to worry about this ever happening, it is important to understand that it is a possibility. 

Loss or Damage

The last unforeseen cost is associated with loss or damage of the external unit. Lost units for pediatric cochlear implant recipients is something that many parents worry about.

Many children with cochlear implants had a form of congenital hearing loss, causing them to lose their hearing at an early age. While loss tends not to be a significant issue with older cochlear implant recipients, it can still occur. 

Luckily the external units of the cochlear implants tend to have some level of interchangeability and upgradability; the loss or damage of one unit could cost you more money. Some companies have an insurance policy you can purchase for the unit that may cover loss or damage to protect you against these costs. 

The Price of the Product and Procedure

Overall cochlear implants are not cheap in any sense of the word. The high cost of cochlear implants is derived from the cost of the procedure, the device itself, and all of the care and maintenance that comes before and after implantation. In the US, these devices can cost anywhere from $30,000 - $100,000. 

While these devices are hefty investments for the profoundly hearing impaired, they are oftentimes covered by insurance and can provide you with a level of hearing that would otherwise be unachievable with hearing aids or other assistive hearing devices. 



Who is a cochlear implant candidate? | The Hearing Journal

Frequently Asked Questions | FDA

Cochlear Implant Surgery | Johns Hopkins Medicine

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Drew Sutton M.D.

Drew Sutton, MD is a board-certified otolaryngologist. He has extensive experience and training in sinus and respiratory diseases, ear and skull base surgery, and pulmonary disorders. He has served as a Clinical Instructor at Grady Hospital Emory University for more than 12 years.

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