Hearing implants or hearing aids: what do I need?

Last update on May, 31, 2021

Difference between hearing implants and hearing aids

A hearing aid is a non-invasive device that does not require any type of intervention. It is inserted when needed and can be removed when necessary. A hearing aid also processes and amplifies sound, leveraging the function of the middle and inner ear and the patient's residual hearing. 

A cochlear implant is an electronic device that requires surgery to be insterted. In this procedure, a multi-electrode terminal is placed inside the cochlea to directly stimulate the auditory nerve and enable a wider perception of sounds.

Who should have cochlear implants?

Cochlear implants are ideal for people who do not benefit sufficiently from hearing aids, It is most commonly recommended to: 

  • Adults with severe bilateral hearing loss
  • Adults with poor verbal perception;
  • Patients with a progressive hearing loss that has been stabilized;
  • Children with profound genetic or acquired hearing loss.

Who should have middle ear implants?

Anyone with sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss or mixed hearing loss may benefit from a middle ear implant.

Who should have hearing aids?

Hearing aids amplify sounds to make them audible to people with hearing loss These aids do not act directly on the nervous system. They are suitable for anyone who does not suffer from severe hearing loss and does not have a damaged inner ear or damage to the cochlea.

Advantages and disadvantages of having a cochlear implant

Many factors can influence the success of a cochlear implant procedure. However, thanks to technological advances in the field of audiology, it can be an excellent remedy for profound and moderate to severe hearing loss. The most common risk factors are:

  • the possibility of having episodes of mastoiditis or otitis media;
  • possible damage to the facial nerve or eardrum;
  • moments of lack of balance and dizziness, often only in motion;
  • the risk of contracting infections, a common complication during all types of surgery. 

Unilateral or bilateral cochlear implants?

When the implant is placed in one ear only, it is referred to as a unilateral cochlear implant; conversely, it is referred to as a bilateral cochlear implant. In either case, the decision will be made based on whether the hearing loss is unilateral or bilateral, and based on the patient’s daily needs.

Using a cochlear implant and hearing aid together

A bimodal hearing solution involves having both a hearing aid and a cochlear implant. This type of solution often helps people understand speech in noisy conditions and allows them to better understand where the sound is coming from.

Cochlear implants: latest news and research

In recent years, scientific research has focused on the design of an under-the-skin cochlear implant that is completely invisible and, in addition, capable of recharging itself with body movements. This type of implant is part of the next generation technologies for all those suffering from hearing impairments. 

Cochlear implants: frequently asked questions

How much does a hearing implant cost?

A cochlear implant costs about £20,000. However, in the UK, it is financed by the National Health Service, along with the necessary rehabilitation.

How many types of cochlear implants are there?

There are several types of cochlear implants, suitable for patients with different types of hearing loss. The most common implants are

  • Bone conduction devices that convert sounds into vibrations that are sent to the inner ear past the outer and middle ears.
  • Middle ear implants that perceive sounds and convert them into vibrations that are sent to the middle ear and then to the inner ear;
  • brainstem hearing implants that convert sounds into signals that are sent to the brain, passing through the auditory nerve.

How long does a cochlear implant last? 

Theoretically, for a lifetime: the implant is made of a material that is not subject to wear and tear. However, patients may replace the external processor every 5 years.

Is cochlear implant surgery painful?

Cochlear implant surgery is considered a routine surgery for any surgeon specializing in otolaryngology or audiology. Like all surgeries, it is not without risk, but it is a simple procedure that requires only a small 4 to 5cm incision behind the ear.

How long does it take to recover from the surgery?

Generally, the procedure is performed under general anesthesia and lasts about 2-3 hours. As this surgery is classified as a standard procedure, it requires a very short recovery phase: patients can be discharged 2 to 3 days after surgery.

What is cochlear implant rehabilitation?

The discharge period will vary from patient to patient and will be decided by the ear surgeon, who will be able to determine your cochlear implant rehabilitation program as well as the timing of your surgery and recovery.

How long does it take to hear after the surgery?

For many patients, it is possible to understand conversations as early as a few days after the first cochlear implant processor adjustment.

What are the steps of getting a cochlear implant?

Before proceeding with your cochlear implant surgery, you must undergo a preliminary clinical tests to assess your eligibility. The tests to be performed are:

  • audiological testing such as tonal and vocal audiometry;
  • assessment of hearing aid performance for those already wearing a hearing aid; 
  • a computed tomography (CT) scan and/or an MRI scan;
  • traditional examinations for procedures performed under general anesthesia.

Can I fly or swim with an implant?

Most water sports are safe, provided that the audio processor has been removed. However, diving at depths greater than 20m is not recommended. As far as flying is concerned, planes can be taken but it is better to avoid flying in case of strong nasal obstruction (cold, rhinosinusitis etc.).

Other questions? Come and visit us in an Amplifon center

Book an appointment and come and visit us at one of our Amplifon centers, our hearing care professionals will be ready to answer any of your curiosities about the world of hearing and to show you our range of Amplifon hearing aids.

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