High-resolution computed tomography (HRCT) is important in the evaluation of cochlear implant candidates. This study examines the accuracy of radiological assessment of cochlear patency in relation to findings at the time of surgery. Older and newer HRCT methods and attending and senior radiologist interpretations are compared in a large series of cochlear implant patients. Subjects were 50 adults (22 to 74 years) and 31 children (2.4 to 11.7 years) who received either a 3M/House or a Nucleus 22-channel cochlear implant. Attending radiologist reports were obtained by chart review and the scans were re-reviewed for this study by a senior radiologist. Accuracy in detecting cochlear ossification ranged from 86.4 per cent for attending radiologists, with all HRCT scans, to 94.7 per cent for the senior radiologist with newer HRCT scans. False positives were rare, but false negatives did occur. Overall, best results were obtained with newer HRCT scans and a senior radiologist. Knowledge of the presence and extent of cochlear ossification is important to the implant surgeon and for patient counselling. Technical guidelines and a check list for interpretation of results are presented.