The Facts About Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants

Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants
Hearing loss is a common sensory impairment that affects millions of individuals globally. For those experiencing hearing difficulties, audiological technology offers two primary solutions: hearing aids and cochlear implants. While both devices aim to enhance hearing abilities, they function on fundamentally different principles, and their suitability depends on the type and degree of hearing loss. Therefore, comprehending the differences between hearing aids and cochlear implants is crucial for individuals seeking appropriate intervention for their hearing needs. This article aims to comprehensively understand the differences between these two technologies and how they can benefit those with hearing loss.

Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants: What is the Difference?


Cochlear Implants

Cochlear implants are highly advanced medical devices for individuals with profound sensorineural hearing loss. These implants directly stimulate the auditory nerve inside the cochlea, which is the inner ear, with electrical signals. This stimulation bypasses any damaged or non-functioning hair cells in the cochlea, enabling those with significant hearing loss to perceive sound. Audiologists recommend Cochlear implants when traditional hearing aids are no longer effective.

The cochlear implant has two parts: an external portion behind the ear and a second part surgically placed under the skin. The cochlear implant system consists of a few essential components. These include a microphone that captures sound from the environment, a speech processor that selects and organizes the sounds recorded by the microphone, and a transmitter and receiver/stimulator that receives signals from the speech processor and transforms them into electrical impulses. The array is a grouping of electrodes that take the impulses from the stimulator and send them to different areas of the auditory nerve. It is important to note that cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing. Instead, they properly represent sounds in the environment and assist with speech comprehension for individuals with hearing loss.

Who is eligible for cochlear implants?

Cochlear implants help children and adults who are deaf or severely hard of hearing. Over 100,000 devices have been implanted in adults and 65,000 in children in the US. They test young children with sounds during an optimal period to generate speech and language skills. Studies have shown that children who receive a cochlear implant before they are 18 months old are better able to hear, understand sound, and speak than their peers who receive implants when they are older. Cochlear implants also help some adults who have lost all or most of their hearing later in life.

Hearing Aids

Hearing aids are electronic instruments that assist individuals with hearing loss by amplifying sounds and enhancing their audibility. These devices are available in numerous styles, each of which can be customized to meet the individual’s specific hearing needs. Professionals in the hearing healthcare field are responsible for programming or adjusting these devices to ensure optimal functionality.

Hearing aids are external devices commonly worn either in or behind the ear. They are non-invasive solutions and are conveniently removable. Individuals who employ hearing aids may undergo an initial adaptation period as they familiarize themselves with amplified sounds. Furthermore, they may find hearing aid adjustments and speech therapy beneficial. Hearing aids are tailored to an individual’s specific hearing requirements and preferences. They can be programmed and fine-tuned by audiologists. By facilitating the volume and clarity of sounds, hearing aids are instrumental in daily communication and the perception of environmental sounds.

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