The cochlear implant (CI) is one of the most successful neural prostheses developed to date. It offers artificial hearing to individuals with profound sensorineural hearing loss and with insufficient benefit from conventional hearing aids. The first implants available some 30 years ago provided a limited sensation of sound. The benefit for users of these early systems was mostly a facilitation of lip-reading based communication rather than an understanding of speech. Considerable progress has been made since then. Modern, multichannel implant systems feature complex speech processing strategies, high stimulation rates and multiple sites of stimulation in the cochlea. Equipped with such a state-of-the-art system, the majority of recipients today can communicate orally without visual cues and can even use the telephone. The impact of CIs on deaf individuals and on the deaf community has thus been exceptional. To date, more than 300,000 patients worldwide have received CIs. In Switzerland, the first implantation was performed in 1977 and, as of 2012, over 2,000 systems have been implanted with a current rate of around 150 CIs per year. The primary purpose of this article is to provide a contemporary overview of cochlear implantation, emphasising the situation in Switzerland.