There are many misconceptions around hearing loss and the treatments available to treat the condition. Let’s clear those around Hearing Aids and Cochlear Implants. Read on to know how the two work, how they differ from each other and the kind of hearing loss they are suited for.
What Is A Hearing Aid?
Hearing aids are prescribed for people with mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss. They are compact electronic devices that amplify the sounds going into the ear. Hearing aids send this amplified sound to the inner ear for translation into electrical impulses that the auditory nerve then transmits to the brain.
What Is A Cochlear Implant?
A cochlear implant is a small electronic device that is surgically placed under the skin behind the ear, and can provide a sense of sound to people with severe to profound hearing loss.
Unlike hearing aids that amplify sound, cochlear implants channel the sound to bypass the damaged part of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The implants generate signals that are passed on to the brain by the auditory nerve, which the brain then recognizes as sounds.
How Are Hearing Aids Different From Cochlear Implants?
The most common type of hearing loss is called the sensorineural form of hearing loss and occurs when there is damage to small hairs in the cochlea, with the damage preventing sound from traveling to the auditory nerve, making hearing difficult. Both hearing aids and cochlear implants can help people with this form of hearing loss.
But while users of hearing aids have a form of hearing loss that can be taken care of by increasing the volume of sounds around them, people who need cochlear implants can’t benefit from a mere amplifying of the sound, their brains actually have missing pieces of sound signals.
And while hearing aids can be taken in and out by the user, a cochlear implant requires surgery and consists of two parts – a processor that sits behind the ear and a receiver under the skin, behind the ear. Also, unlike hearing aids that work with existing hearing, a cochlear implant work directly with the auditory nerve and the brain and replaces the function of the damaged inner ear.
Can Babies And Children Benefit From A Cochlear Implant?
Very young children, even those as old as a year old, who are born deaf or with severe hearing loss can be given cochlear implants.
In fact, children and babies with cochlear implants are known to develop language skills as fast as those with normal hearing. The implants also help them do well in the classroom and beyond it, as they grow.