Cochlear Implants & Hearing Aids

What’s the Difference?

There are millions of people whom are deaf or hard of hearing in just the U.S. alone. However, every case is special for the individual in the decision of choosing whether to pursue hearing via medical advances and what option would be best. Each patient is unique with different factors that play into what choice would be best for them, and with new advances made in the medical field there are several options. This however will focus mainly on the two main hearing options most commonly heard, being cochlear ear implants and hearing aids. An explanation as well as an exploration of these two options/treatments will be discussed below.


Hearing Aids:

This is by far the most commonly know treatment and is used by roughly 6 million people in the U.S. Hearing aids are not all exactly the same, but they do all have similar characteristics. Hearing aids typically have a microphone that is used to pick up noise from around it, an amplifier which is used to take the noise and make it louder and a receiver that sends the noise into the ear. This is the basic way in which a hearing aid works, there is also an on/off switch and batteries. Hearing aids can be removed from the ear as well. Some hearing aids are fitted to the form of the ear, and with children it may have to be replaced more often due to them still growing/developing.

Hearing aids are best used for people whom have damage to their inner ear or the nerve that connects the ear to the brain. Hearing aids can be used at as young as 4 weeks old. These devices are commonly used by individuals whom have had grown up with speaking as their main form of communication and have lost some hearing due to infection or an event. However, these devices do have drawbacks. The devices make the noises around them louder so as to be better heard, yet there is no filtering out what the user actually wants to hear. With more usage the person becomes better at picking out what exactly to listen too, but at the beginning it can be slightly challenging. It truly depends on the user. There is also the fact that hearing aids do not benefit everyone with hearing loss, conductive hearing loss( which is problems related to the eardrum, ear canal, or middle part of the ear) is better suited with other options.


Cochlear Ear Implants:

This form of treatment is still relatively new in comparison with hearing aids and not quite as well known, slightly less than 100,000 people in the U.S. have gone through this treatment. The cochlear ear implant is put in by a surgical process, with the doctor inserting part of the device into the inner ear( cochlea). After the skin has healed up from the surgery, which is about 1-4 weeks later, the part of the device that goes on the outside will be placed. Cochlear ear implants are used on individuals whom are deaf or close to it, meaning their inner ear is not working.

Listen carefully to the audio below to get a better idea of what it sounds like.

The sentence is first heard normally then repeated in what it would sound like through a cochlear ear implant. Though this is just a simulation it does give us a closer idea of what hearing is like with these devices.

              The cochlear ear implant works by taking the noise around it with a microphone that is in the part of the device outside of the ear and transferring these noises into electrical signals which are sent to the other part of the device that is inside the ear. From here the device takes the electrical signals sends it to the auditory part of the brain overall causing hearing. The cochlear implant mimics the normal functions of an ear. The part of the cochlear ear on the outside can easily be removed as it is held in place by a magnet between the two parts. There are more restrictions  when applying for this procedure and is more often done for children then adults. The process does come with some health risks due to the surgery but is most commonly fine. This procedure is only available for those whom are deaf or severely hard of hearing, after the surgery the brain has to be trained to distinguish noises and often times a hearing and speech rehabilitation programs are encouraged.


It is always best to talk to your local doctor to figure out the best path. For each person is an individual case and what worked for one doesn’t always work for another. For more information on hearing aids and cochlear implants you can click on the links below.

Hearing Aids:

https://www.asha.org/public/hearing/Hearing-Aids-Overview/

https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/hearing-aids#1

Cochlear Ear Implants:

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007203.htm

https://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/understanding-cochlear-implants#1

https://www.uwhealth.org/cochlear-implants/overview-of-cochlear-implants/20422

Photo credits to:

http://bit.ly/2iaujBA

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/cochlear-implant-surgery