A hearing aid intercepts sounds, amplifies them, and then sends them on their interrupted journey to the wearer’s eardrum. This simple solution is often sufficient for people with mild to moderate hearing loss. However, a cochlear implant may be indicated for people who still struggle to understand speech.
Cochlear Implants vs Hearing Aids
Hearing aids – especially behind-the-ear ones - are user-friendly. The wearer can fit them and remove them, and even do basic maintenance so they should never need to visit a hearing aid store.
However, the pros and cons of cochlear implants to consider most carefully are the tradeoff between having enhanced hearing, versus undergoing a surgical procedure to achieve the benefit.
Cochlear implants are more expensive compared to the cost of the mid-range behind-the-ear hearing aids we sell. Some prices for implants we’ve seen are in tens of thousands of dollars. But then these are advanced versions that hard-wire into the cochlea. In both cases, it may pay handsomely to trial our hearing aids first.
How Basic Surgical Implants Connect to the Cochlea
The cochlea is the spiral cavity in the inner ear. In simple terms, it ‘translates’ sound vibrations from the eardrum into nerve impulses the brain interprets as sound. The cochlear nerve used for cochlear implants carries this auditory information to the brain.
Basic cochlear implants requiring local anesthetics comprise two separate components:
- A receiver behind the user’s ear picks up sound with a tiny microphone. Then it processes the sound before transmitting it to a receiver under the skin
- A surgeon implants the receiver behind the patient’s ear. The receiver transmits this information to the cochlear nerve which forwards it to the brain
The brain processes this information to produce a hearing sensation the user experiences as sound.
The Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implants
A digital hearing aid amplifies the quality of sound stimulating the eardrum. A cochlear implant, on the other hand, bypasses the eardrum and stimulates the cochlear nerve directly.
The implant user should find it easier to interpret speech after a specialist audiologist has tuned the device appropriately. A period of rehabilitation therapy follows leading hopefully to significantly better hearing.
However, the actual benefits vary between users according to John Hopkins Medicine:
- Most individuals experience a significant increase in awareness of sounds within days
- However, speech understanding may take four to six months after the surgical implant
- The subjective benefit varies considerably between individuals. Auditory therapy may be necessary
In Which Cases should People get Cochlear Implants?
People should consider cochlear implants vs hearing aids if the latter have failed to bring their hearing up to what they consider an acceptable level. Signs of a lack of success include:
- Difficulty distinguishing doors closing, from footsteps
- Inability to hear door bells, and phone ring tones
- Difficulty hearing what people are saying on the phone
- Still having to lip read to understand speech at close range
- Little uptake in watching television and listening to music
Pros and Cons of Cochlear Implants: Are They Right for You
Having cochlear implants done is an expensive process. The post-operation phase includes training, therapy, and learning how to interpret, and use the new electrical signals. Moreover, persons considering them should know and understand:
- Cochlear implants do not restore ‘normal’ hearing. A small minority of people may experience no benefits at all
- The ear nearest the implant may lose the rest of its natural hearing. This is something to think about when comparing hearing aids vs cochlear implants
John Hopkins Medicine believes these implants are not for everyone. They recommend consulting a cochlear implant specialist and perhaps a psychologist too. A physical examination and X-ray or MRI will follow if the outlook looks positive.
Are There Times When Hearing Aids Are Better than Implants?
Of course, there are times when implants in cochlea are essential to restore hearing. This may be due to a genetic deficiency, trauma, or even a disease. However, it can be a sensible idea to try using digital aids first, just in case they meet your needs. Moreover, the cost is, of course considerably less.
We are running a special offer at Blue Angels Hearing that may be of interest. For a while longer we are still able to supply a pair of digital, behind-the-ear hearing aids for less than $200, delivered to you.
This may be something to consider before beginning a round of cochlea consultations, and tests that cost considerably more. Not to mention the procedure itself. Click on this link to know more about this opportunity to improve your hearing.