Cochlear Implant Versus Hearing Aid

Cochlear Implant Versus Hearing Aid


What is the difference between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant?
A conventional or standard hearing aid is the most widespread and the best-known solution for hearing loss. It is a small sound amplifier that is worn behind the ear or in the ear canal. It picks up sounds, amplifies the specific sounds that the individual cannot hear and transmits the amplified signal to the inner ear by air conduction (the normal route of sound transmission). A hearing aid can help most people with varying types and degrees of hearing loss. However, there are still limitations with conventional hearing aids, and it might not be the best solution for you. Consult your audiologist to discover the most appropriate treatment option for you. 

A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. First, a cochlear implant is made up of two parts: an internal component that requires surgery and an external component that looks a bit like a conventional hearing aid. The external component, called a sound processor, is typically worn behind the ear and captures sound then transmits the sound signal to the internal component, called an implant, via an antenna. The implant then sends this information to the auditory nerve using weak electrical stimulation. For more details on the cochlear implant, see our article Cochlear implant 101.

Everybody’s hearing is different in much the same way as everybody’s eyesight or fingerprints are different. There is not one hearing solution that will work for everyone. You were referred for a cochlear implant because your hearing specialist has the knowledge of the different types of hearing devices that are available and has determined that a cochlear implant is the correct device for you.  

Why can’t I have a stronger hearing aid?  

There are many different types of hearing aids available on the market. There is a limit to the amount of amplification a conventional hearing aid can provide for individuals with severe/profound hearing loss.  Hearing aids make changes to the acoustic (natural) sound that comes into the device to overcome an individual’s hearing loss but sometimes, like in your case, the degree of hearing loss reaches a point where making things louder doesn’t help make things clearer. That is when implantable hearing devices can help.

A hearing aid trial before cochlear implantation is mandatory for all candidates. Before undergoing surgery, it is necessary to confirm that hearing aids are not providing sufficient benefit to the patient. If that’s the case, and all other criteria are met, the patient may be a cochlear implant candidate. 

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