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What’s the difference between cochlear implants and hearing aids?

If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss, your next step will be to find a solution that best meets your individual needs. Whilst the most common solution is hearing aids, these aren’t the only devices available to people with auditory problems. In some instances, hearing aids may be deemed an insufficient means of treatment, and your audiologist may recommend the placement of a cochlear implant instead. So, what’s the big difference between the two devices?

Hearing aids vs. cochlear implants?

Like hearing aids, cochlear implants are electronic devices designed to help individuals with hearing loss. Like hearing aids, they can’t restore hearing loss, but they can help individuals with hearing problems interpret the sounds around them. The real difference lies in how each device fits and functions. Whilst hearing aids are placed behind or in the ear and work to amplify sounds, cochlear implants are slightly more complex. Although not limited to this category, cochlear implants are used to treat severe or profound hearing loss that results from the damage of the tiny hair cells in the inner ear (the cochlea); this damage can impact the transmission of auditory signals from the ear to the brain. As opposed to simply amplifying sounds, cochlear implants stimulate the auditory nerve directly to replace the function of the damaged cochlea. They also need to be surgically implanted behind the ear.

How do cochlear implants work?  

Cochlear implants are made up of two key parts: a microphone/processor that sits behind the ear (much like a behind-the-ear hearing aid), and a receiver that is implanted under the skin near the ear. When the microphone picks up on surrounding sounds, the speech processor detects and arranges these sounds, transmitting them to the receiver. The receiver then converts the sound signals into electrical impulses and sends them to the auditory nerve, which in turn sends the impulses to the brain where the sounds are interpreted.

When would cochlear implants be recommended?

In most cases, hearing loss can be successfully mitigated with the help of a hearing aid, hence why these are the more common solution for individuals with mild to severe hearing loss. Cochlear implants will usually only be recommended when individuals cannot be helped with hearing aids or amplifiers.  Both children and adults with severe or profound hearing loss may be suitable for cochlear implants, and children as young as one years old could be eligible.

Will any further treatment be needed after the cochlear implant is fitted?

As with hearing aids, it often takes time to adapt to a new hearing solution. If you have had hearing loss for a long time, you may be experiencing sounds you haven’t heard in a long time in a way you don’t recognise. With cochlear implants, therapy is often needed to help patients rehabilitate and adapt to their new hearing experience. This may include assistance and support from speech therapists and audiologists.

Find a solution with our Perth audiologists

If you’re experiencing signs of hearing loss, our audiologists at The Art of Hearing can help you find a hearing solution that suits your individuals needs and circumstances. We’re not interested in just selling you a hearing aid; our audiologists are dedicated to supporting you throughout your journey to better hearing and are committed to working with you throughout the rehabilitation process to ensure you get the most out of your new hearing solution.

Organise a consultation with our Perth audiologists today to take the first step towards better hearing.

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