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Cochlear implants: how are they different from hearing aids?What is hearing aid?

The ear has three parts: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. When outer ear and middle ear parts are defective, the hearing aids use the same basic parts to carry sounds from the environment into your ear and make them louder. Most hearing aids are digital, and all are powered with a traditional hearing aid battery or a rechargeable battery.

Small microphones collect sounds from the environment. A computer chip with an amplifier converts the incoming sound into digital code. It analyses and adjusts the sound based on your hearing loss, listening needs and the level of the sounds around you. The amplified signals are then converted back into sound waves and delivered to your ears through speakers, sometimes called receivers.

How is cochlear implant different from other hearing aids?

Cochlear implants replace the function of damaged sensory hair cells inside the inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which mostly make sounds louder, cochlear implants may further improve the clarity of sound and enhance your ability to understand conversations. A cochlear implant provides the sense of sound by stimulating the auditory nerve directly. Unlike hearing aids, they require surgical implantation.

Who is a candidate for cochlear implantation?

Children with loss of hearing as young as 6 months old may be eligible for a cochlear implant. It is beneficial to do implantation as early as possible to expose children to sounds during the critical period of language acquisition. After implantation, they must undergo intense speech and language therapy to achieve the best possible outcome from the device.

Children are considered viable candidates when they:

  • Have profound hearing loss in both ears.

  • Get little or no benefit through the use of hearing aids.

  • Are healthy and any medical conditions would not compromise surgery.

  • Understand(when able), along with their parents, their role in the successful use of cochlear implants.

  • Have support from an educational program that will emphasize the development of auditory skills.


  • Individuals 18 years of age or older.

  • Moderate severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears.

  • Limited benefit from amplification defined by preoperative test scores of ≤ 50% sentence recognition in the ear to be implanted and ≤60% in the opposite ear or binaurally.

  • Get little or no benefit from hearing aids.

  • Have no medical problems that could put them at risk during surgery.

  • Have a strong desire to be part of the hearing world and communicate through listening, speaking and speech reading.

Important Considerations:

  • Many individuals with residual low frequency hearing can be CI candidates and can benefit from CI.

  • Cochlear implantation devices can be tailored based on: passion for music, work in noisy or reverberant environments, what are lifestyle demands?

  • Determine motivation to experiment with hearing aids, in both the implanted and/or contralateral ears.

How do cochlear implants work?

These implants usually consist of 2 main components:

  • The externally worn microphone, sound processor and transmitter system.

  • The implanted receiver and electrode system, which contains the electronic circuits that receive signals from the external system and send electrical currents to t