I would like to know, what is the difference between a hearing aid and a cochlear implant, and what factors would determine whether you could have one and if so, whether you would want one?


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    Hey, Jack, I'm hearing impaired, and wear hearing aids. Feel free to edit your post and tag it as "deaf," "hearing-aids," "hearing-impaired," "audiology," etc. This will draw more individuals to your post that can answer your question. I don't believe we have a "cochlear implant" tag yet, but someone will likely get to it. I look forward to the answer too!! :) Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 19:20
  • I suppose hearing aids get more flexibility. Can they be inserted or removed? How do they work, and what advantages do they have over CIs? What determines whether you can use one or not? Do hearing aids hurt, and if so, then why so, and why would you want one? Thanks. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 4:56

1 Answer 1


The NIDCD defines a hearing aid as:

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. It makes some sounds louder so that a person with hearing loss can listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily activities. A hearing aid can help people hear more in both quiet and noisy situations. However, only about one out of five people who would benefit from a hearing aid actually uses one.

A hearing aid has three basic parts: a microphone, amplifier, and speaker. The hearing aid receives sound through a microphone, which converts the sound waves to electrical signals and sends them to an amplifier. The amplifier increases the power of the signals and then sends them to the ear through a speaker.

Things are a little messy because most people consider ear trumpets as an early for of hearing aid despite being completely passive. Additionally, bone Anchored hearing aids work in a totally different manner from most hearing aids. The earlens is also pushing the boundaries of what a hearing aid is.

The NIDCD defines a cochlear implant as

A cochlear implant is very different from a hearing aid. Hearing aids amplify sounds so they may be detected by damaged ears. Cochlear implants bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Signals generated by the implant are sent by way of the auditory nerve to the brain, which recognizes the signals as sound. Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and understand speech in person or over the telephone.

Hearing aid indications are generally mild or moderate bilateral hearing loss, who has experienced a noticeable communication handicap. There is a push now to fit hearing aids to anyone, especially children with communication difficulties (e.g., this AAA report).

Cochlear implant indications are postlingual onset of severe-to-profound, bilateral sensorineural hearing loss with limited benefit from appropriately fitted hearing aids. These indications are also being pushed and cochlear implants are now used for individuals with single-sided deafness and hybrid systems are being used with individuals with residual low frequency hearing.

As to whether you would want a hearing aid or cochlear implant is a deeply personal question. Those in Deaf Culture tend to be against auditory assistive devices. Hearing aids are low risk and have a limited commitment. Apart from money if you decide you do not like them, you have lost nothing. Cochlear implants are much more expensive, require surgery, and destroy all/most residual hearing. If you do not like the result of the cochlear implant, you cannot go back.

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