Hearing aids vs. cochlear implants: Which hearing loss treatment is right for you?

Karl September 18, 2020

Both hearing aids and cochlear implants can help with hearing loss. While cochlear implants and hearing aids might seem to have the same function, they are two very different hearing devices. What’s the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants?

Hearing aids

  • Hearing aids are non-invasive solutions that improve hearing by amplifying sound. They can be easily taken in and out of the ear canal at any time. Thanks to innovative technology, the latest hearing aids are so small that no one but you will even notice them.
  • These intelligent devices can be easily managed via a smartphone app and customized to suit the user’s needs and environment. For example, if you’re at a crowded restaurant, you can quickly and easily adjust the sound balance via your app for optimal speech understanding. Some of the best, most elite hearing aids on the market feature Bluetooth.
  • Hearing aids cost less than cochlear implants. For most hearing aid users, the price is well worth the ability to better hear music, the sounds of nature, and their loved ones. The amazing benefits of hearing aids are difficult to overlook.

Cochlear implants

  • There are times when hearing aids are not effective because of the degree of damage to the ear. In this case, it’s necessary to target the auditory nerve directly using cochlear implants.
  • Cochlear implants serve as a prosthetic for the damaged portions of the inner ear, and so, they must be surgically inserted. Unlike traditional hearing aids, cochlear implants do not restore hearing. Instead, they facilitate the sensation of sound. They might be the right option for children or adults who are deaf or hard of hearing and cannot be helped by hearing aids. Cochlear implants serve as a lifeline to the outside world and for many people, the the desire to hear again outweigh the risk factors.
  • Implants can change a person’s life completely. Yet, having a cochlear implant is not a quick fix. The brain has to re-learn everything from scratch. This takes a lot of work and focus. Cochlear implants and recovery time come at a high price. However, some private insurance policies cover the cost of cochlear implants, fully or in part. Check with your insurance provider on this matter.

Below is a comparison chart of hearing aids and cochlear implants:

Hearing aids
Cochlear implants
Type of hearing lossHearing loss is either conductive (damage of outer or middle ear) or sensorineural (damage of inner ear or the auditory nerve).Hearing loss is sensorineural (damage of inner ear or the hearing nerve).
Extent of hearing lossHearing loss is mild to moderate and fair/poor speech recognition.Hearing loss is severe to profound and poor speech recognition.
What the devices do and how they do itHearing aids amplify acoustic sound generally and/or by specific frequencies.A surgically placed implant bypasses your inner ear. It translates acoustic sound into electrical signals and sends the signals directly to the hearing nerve and then on to the brain.
Adapting timeNormally, it takes approximately two weeks or less for you to adapt to hearing aids.Usually, it takes about 6 to 12 months for you to adapt to a cochlear implant.
Surgery requiredNo.
*(exception: implantable hearing aids)
Yes, outpatient surgery under general anesthesia.
RiskLittle to none
*(exception: implantable hearing aids)
Low to moderate risk, because of the surgical aspect.
Age limit
No upper age limit.
No upper age limit.
Price & insurancePrice varies depending on the model and the features. Some insurance plans cover the cost.Cost up to $100,000 per implant. Most insurance plans cover part or all of the cost.
  • Exceptions: Bone-anchored hearing aids (BAHA) use bone conduction to send clear, crisp sound directly to the inner ear, bypassing the middle ear. BAHAs are generally used to treat middle ear problems or deafness in one ear.

It’s best that you visit an audiologist at one of our 1000+ partner locations to find out which device will best suit your hearing needs and preferences.

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Sound quality
Improves speech