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The Hearing Health Blog

  • Dr. Michael Disher

How does a Cochlear Implant Differ from Hearing Aids?

Updated: Jun 16, 2021

Do you have a severe hearing loss? Have you tried hearing aids unsuccessfully? Do you struggle to understand conversations and rely on lipreading? As hearing loss progresses, becoming more severe, words become more difficult to understand even with the best hearing aids. Here’s why:

Hearing loss is typically caused by damage to hair cells that are located in your inner ear hearing organ, called the cochlea. Because the hair cells are damaged, they need a louder sound to stimulate them properly so that they can send sounds up to the brain. This makes hearing aids a very helpful option.

Microscopic view of hair cells in ears

However, as the hair cells become more and more damaged, large regions of hair cells begin to die off. When this happens, even when a person is using hearing aids to send a louder signal to the hair cells, the hair cells aren’t there to do their job and transfer sounds up to the brain. People perceive this as words being unclear or difficult to understand, even when they can “hear” them.

Microscopic View of Damaged Hair Cells

So, how does a cochlear implant help? Rather than sending a louder signal to the hair cells, a cochlear implant replaces the regions of dead and damaged hair cells with a small electrode array. These electrodes then act as the hair cells, sending a clearer signal up to the brain.

Cochlear implant electrode array

Cochlear implants can be a very helpful option for many people with severe hearing losses struggling in conversations even with hearing aids. If you or a loved one seems to be struggling, contact our office for a cochlear implant evaluation to determine if they are a candidate and learn more about cochlear implants.


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