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What’s the Difference Between a Cochlear Implant vs Hearing Aids?

At North Shore Hearing P.C., we're regularly asked about cochlear implants vs hearing aids. Before we go into a full cochlear implant vs hearing aids comparison, you should understand these two options are not and shouldn’t be viewed as alternatives.

Determining whether cochlear implants or hearing aids are the better option shouldn’t be based on a patient’s or a surgeon’s preference. Instead, it should entirely based on your auditory performance.

And the hearing specialists at North Shore Hearing P.C. can provide guidance and assistance in reaching the ideal solution for improving the quality of your hearing. In the meantime, continue reading to learn more about the cochlear implant vs hearing aids comparison.

What Are Cochlear Implants?

Similar to a hearing aid, cochlear implants are small electronic devices that help those with sensorineural hearing loss – the most common type. Also identical to a hearing aid, cochlear implants can’t restore hearing, but offer a sense of sound to those who have severe degrees of hearing loss or are profoundly deaf.

Cochlear implants are more complex than hearing aids because they must be surgically placed under your skin behind the ear. Once placed, cochlear implants work by replacing the function of the damaged cochlear or inner ear and by directly stimulating the auditory nerve.

Cochlear Implants vs Hearing Aids

Cochlear implants are designed to perform in a more complex and different manner than hearing aids. While all types of hearing aids are designed to amplify sound; a cochlear implant delivers an electrically charged signal directly to the auditory nerve or cochlear, which will be explained in more detail below. These devices offer a vast frequency range, regardless of the hearing loss before implantation.

The one area hearing aids have the advantage over implants is with lower frequencies. The innermost part of the cochlea or apex is where lower frequencies are detected. Currently, implant technology has limited depths of which it can be implanted, which limits the access to frequencies below 250 Hz.

As a result, some people are encouraged to use a cochlear implant in one ear and a hearing aid in the other. Those who rely on an implant alone tend to perceive or gain access to lower frequencies through harmonics – after the brain learns how to translate the electrode signal.

When Are Cochlear Implants Used?

Cochlear implants are usually an option for people who didn’t receive maximum benefit from hearing aids or those who can’t be helped by hearing aids and amplifiers. Both adults and children can have cochlear implants placed.

Some people with deafness or profound hearing loss have damage to the minuscule hair cells in the cochlea. Kids as young as one-year old who have severe hearing loss or who were born deaf are eligible candidates for cochlear implants.

Cochlear implants are so effective that kids with them develop language skills almost as fast as kids with normal hearing. Most importantly, cochlear implants help these children exceed in the classroom and beyond.

How Do Cochlear Implants Work?

A cochlear implant has external and internal parts. The external parts include a transmitter that sits behind the ear, a processor, and a microphone.

  • The microphone detects different sounds in the external environment.
  • The processor selects and organizes these various sounds.
  • The transmitter receives signals sent by the speech processor and changes these signals into electrically charged impulses, sending them to an electrode array that is surgically implanted.
  • The electrode array then stimulates the auditory nerve and transmits impulses to the brain, where they’re received as sounds.

The internal parts of a cochlear implant are placed by a surgeon and include the electrodes and the receive-stimulator. The electrode array bypasses any hair cells that have suffered damage and is placed by the surgeon in the cochlea. Then the receiver-stimulator is surgically implanted in a location behind the ear.

What’s the Process for Determining Cochlear Implant Candidacy?

Determining whether you’re a good candidate for cochlear implants is a process. It usually involves several medical examinations, audiological testing, X-rays, and other imaging studies. As previously mentioned, children as young as one-year old with congenital deafness or profound hearing loss may be eligible for cochlear implants.

After the implants have been placed, the patient will need to undergo various rehabilitation services. These services are provided by your local audiologists and speech language pathologists.

The cost of one cochlear implant device can vary significantly – ranging anywhere from as low as $40,000 up to more than $100,000. Health insurance providers offer different degrees of coverage for the device, surgical procedure, and any related follow-up services.

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C.

Although both cochlear implants and hearing aids are used to treat hearing loss, hearing aids are exponentially more common. For every single person who wears a cochlear implant, there are approximately 125 people wearing hearing aids. Only half of one percent of the people who are looking for a sensorineural hearing loss solution will receive cochlear implants.

The experts at North Shore Hearing P.C. can help explain all of your options and ensure you understand the pros and cons of cochlear implants vs hearing aids. In any case, our goal is to help you make the best possible decision for your hearing and health.

Contact North Shore Hearing P.C. today.

Diane Faulknor, MA, CCC/A

After 18 years of experience in the field of audiology and hearing aid dispensing, I felt it was time to start my own practice which has led to the creation of North Shore Hearing, P.C. I take pride in the care I provide for my patients as hearing is not just a medical issues we need to deal with, but also the social and lifestyle ramifications that people with poor hearing live with on a day-to-day basis. Based on not only your hearing loss, but also the type of lifestyle you lead, we'll work together to fit you with the most appropriate hearing aid available in today's marketplace.