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Difference Between Cochlear Implant and Hearing Aid

A cochlear implant is an implantable device that stimulates the auditory nerve to help a person hear. A hearing aid magnifies sounds to improve hearing.

What is Cochlear Implant?


A cochlear implant is a device that is surgically placed under the skin and is connected to the inner ear, the cochlea. 


A cochlear implant is done under general anesthesia. Electrodes are put inside the cochlea of the ear. The receiver part goes just underneath the skin by the ear. After recovery, adjustment of the device and coaching with speech-language experts may be required.


Hearing aids do not work for everyone who has a loss of hearing and implants work best for people who have hearing loss due to a damaged inner ear. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss. A cochlear implant works well for individuals who do not function well with hearing aids. Communication ability can improve dramatically and implants work best for people who had hearing loss after learning to speak.


There are some potential risks associated with a cochlear implant including a slight chance of meningitis. There is also a chance that a cochlear implant will take away any hearing that a person still has, the device may be faulty or need to be replaced in a couple of years.  Further side effects include bleeding, leaking of CSF fluid, tinnitus, and dizziness.

What is Hearing aid?


A hearing aid is a device that you wear in or over the ear that magnifies sounds to improve hearing.


There is no invasive procedure needed with a hearing aid. The device is custom-made for the person after testing their hearing and noting deficiencies. The hearing aid, once made, is then fitted outside of the ear or even inside the actual ear canal. Unlike a cochlear implant, a hearing aid does not need to be left in. Today, digital signal processing is even used with new hearing aids, which is beneficial because they have noise-canceling capabilities. 


A hearing aid does not require surgery and it is helpful for most people who have some hearing loss. It magnifies sounds so that hearing is improved and advances in technology have greatly improved how well these devices work. 


It can be difficult to adjust to wearing a hearing aid and not all have the digital signal processing ability yet, so background noise is still a problem. The hearing aid does not bring back hearing that has been lost. Hearing aids also need to be cleaned often or they become dirty and do not work properly.

Difference between Cochlear implant and Hearing aid


A cochlear implant is a device that is placed surgically inside the head and attached to the auditory nerve. A hearing aid is a device placed outside the ear or in the inner ear canal.


A surgery is done to attach the cochlear implant to the auditory nerve.  A hearing aid does not need surgery and is put outside or on the ear after being custom designed.

How it works

A cochlear implant stimulates the nerve used for hearing. A hearing aid magnifies sounds.


People with inner ear problems benefit from a cochlear implant. A hearing aid is not invasive and it helps most people to hear.


A cochlear implant is invasive and there are risks with this procedure.A hearing aid does not work for everybody and can get clogged with earwax.

Table comparing Cochlear implant and Hearing aid

Summary of Cochlear implant and Hearing aid

  • A cochlear implant and hearing aid are both devices used for people who have some deafness.
  • For most people a hearing aid works fine and it is not an invasive procedure.
  • A cochlear implant requires an invasive procedure but works well if you have inner ear problems.


How is a cochlear implant different from a hearing aid?

A cochlear implant is a device surgically implanted into the brain with electrodes touching the auditory nerve. A hearing aid is a device placed outside or in the outer ear that amplifies sound waves so you can hear better.

Do you need a hearing aid with cochlear implant?

While most people with a cochlear implant do not need a hearing aid as well, it can sometimes help in certain cases. 

Do cochlear implants work like normal hearing?

Cochlear implants do not work the same as normal hearing and the sounds that are heard are not as nuanced. In other words, many sounds may seem similar and seem a bit robotic, but it does help improve communication. 

Can cochlear implants be removed? 

You cannot remove a cochlear implant on your own and is normally does not need to be taken out. However, a cochlear implant usually does need to be removed if there is an infection or the device fails. In most situations, if all works well, then the implant does not need to be taken out.

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References :

[0]Edwards, Brent. "The future of hearing aid technology." Trends in amplification 11.1 (2007): 31-45.

[1]Loizou, Philipos C. "Introduction to cochlear implants." IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine 18.1 (1999): 32-42.

[2]Zeng, Fan-Gang, et al. "Cochlear implants: system design, integration, and evaluation." IEEE reviews in biomedical engineering 1 (2008): 115-142.

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