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Hearing Aids vs Cochlear Implants - Are hearing aids better than cochlear implants? What is the difference?

Kimberley Bradshaw - Head of Marketing
Written By:
Kimberley Bradshaw

Head of Customer Content Experience

Paul Harrison Hearing Aid UK Founder & Audiologist
Medically Reviewed By:
Paul Harrison

Audiology Expert

Updated and medically reviewed: 28th June 2024
Hearing Aids vs Cochlear Implants

Hearing Aids Versus Cochlear Implants

Hearing aids vs cochlear implants similarities and differences

 

Cochlear implants and hearing aids are hearing loss treatments

What is the main difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants?  Hearing aids and cochlear implants are two different types of hearing devices that can be used to improve hearing in individuals with hearing loss.

Both have their own unique set of benefits and limitations and the best choice for a particular individual will depend on the specific needs and preferences of that individual.

Are cochlear implants better than hearing aids?  Hearing aids are usually the hearing solution for many with hearing loss.  However, for people with severe hearing loss or for those who are deaf - cochlear implants may be a better hearing solution. 

This article is designed to help you understand the differences between the two and if there are any similarities.

 

Hearing aids are worn and can be removed day to day

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that are worn in or around the ear and amplify sound to make it louder and easier to hear. An audiologist will diagnose a hearing loss, go through the various hearing aids available, and then program and fit them professionally.  They are designed to help people with hearing loss, particularly those with mild to moderate hearing loss, to better understand speech and participate in conversations.

However, there are power hearing aids available for people with more severe and profound hearing loss.  Hearing aids can also be worn in one or both ears and come in a variety of Behind Ear and In Ear styles.

 

The benefits of hearing aids

One of the main benefits of hearing aids is that they are relatively non-invasive and easy to use. They do not require surgery and can be easily adjusted to suit the wearer's needs. Hearing aids can also be programmed to filter out background noise and amplify specific frequencies, making it easier to hear in noisy environments.

In addition, hearing aids are generally more affordable than cochlear implants.

 

The limitations of hearing aids and when the amplification is not enough

However, hearing aids have some limitations. They may not be effective for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss, as they rely on the residual hearing of the wearer to work properly. In addition, hearing aids may not be able to restore normal hearing, and they may not be able to provide the same level of sound quality as cochlear implants.

For example, in some cases, the hearing aid amplification might not be enough for those with more severe hearing loss.  This may mean they are better suited to wearing a cochlear implant.

 

Cochlear implants are for profound hearing loss

Cochlear implants are a more advanced form of hearing technology that is designed for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss. Unlike hearing aids, which amplify sound, cochlear implants bypass damaged hair cells in the inner ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, allowing the wearer to hear sounds that would otherwise be inaudible.

 

The benefits of cochlear implants

Cochlear implants are typically recommended for individuals who cannot benefit from hearing aids or who have limited or no residual hearing.  They are surgically implanted by a surgeon known as an otolaryngologist. 

They consist of two main components.  These are an external processor that sits behind the ear and an internal implant that is surgically placed under the skin. The external processor picks up sound, processes it, and sends it to the internal implant, which sends electrical signals to the auditory nerve.

One of the main benefits of cochlear implants is that they can provide a wider range of sound frequencies and a more natural sound quality than hearing aids. They can also help individuals with severe to profound hearing loss to understand speech and participate in conversations more easily.

In addition, cochlear implants can be used in both ears for even greater improvement in hearing.

 

Cochlear implants limitations and the risks

However, cochlear implants have some limitations as well. Because they require surgery to be implanted, this carries some risks and potential complications. In addition, even though you can get cochlear implants from the NHS, if you choose to go private, they are more expensive than other hearing aids. 

They also require more maintenance and care than hearing aids, as the external processor and internal implant need to be regularly checked and updated.

 

Hearing aids vs cochlear implants - In conclusion

Are hearing aids or cochlear implants better?  Both hearing solutions are successful for people with sensorineural hearing loss, which means their hair cells in the inner ear, nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain, or both.  This is the most common form of hearing loss.

What is the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants?  Hearing aids and cochlear implants are two different types of devices that can be used to improve hearing in individuals with hearing loss. Hearing aids are a good option for individuals with mild to moderate hearing loss and power hearing aids can support those with profound hearing loss. 

Cochlear implants are typically recommended for individuals with severe to profound hearing loss and if a hearing loss is due to auditory neuropathy.  The best choice for a particular individual will depend on their specific needs and preferences, and it is important to discuss the options with a hearing healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate solution for you and your hearing needs.

 

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Meet Kimberley Bradshaw , Head of Customer Content Experience

She has collaborated and written about hearing healthcare for several online publications.  By working closely with Hearing Aid UK audiologists, and experts, Kimberley develops the online content, so that the customer's experience is the best it can be. 

Kimberley's medical representation has allowed her to focus on the importance of hearing healthcare and explore the many ways in which hearing loss and its awareness can be improved.

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Top 3 common FAQs about hearing aids vs cochlear implants

Are hearing aids better than cochlear implants?

There is no better device, it is what solution suits the individual depending on the severity of the hearing loss.  Hearing aids do not require surgery and suit those who have less severe hearing loss and some speech understanding.  Cochlear implants need surgery and are suited for people with more severe hearing loss - either in one ear or both as well as poor speech understanding.

Can cochlear implants reverse hearing loss?

Cochlear implants give those who are deaf support in processing sounds and speech. However, like hearing aids, cochlear implants do not restore normal hearing.

How long can cochlear implants last?

Cochlear implants are designed to last forever.  However, whilst it is still rare, these devices can fail. 

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