Nearly 50 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids can dramatically improve hearing, especially with the newer designs available today. Cochlear implants, on the other hand, essentially reverse hearing loss by taking over the function of the damaged part of the inner ear to send sound signals to the brain via the hearing nerve. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to improving hearing, there are certain factors to consider when choosing a solution likely to be effective.
Long considered the go-to remedy for hearing loss, hearing aids are recommended when hearing loss causes social impairment or difficult in speech development. Signs of hearing loss may include:
All patients, younger and older patients with severe hearing loss or those who are unable to receive benefit from hearing aids can benefit from a cochlear implant. An ear, nose and throat doctor (ENT) who specializes in the ear (otologist / neurotologist) will evaluate a patient to determine if they have a type of hearing loss that can could be improved with an implant. Ideal candidates for a cochlear implants have severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss that can't be compensated for with a hearing aid.
Treatment for hearing loss depends on the type of hearing loss involved. In some cases, an ENT may treat hearing issues with medication if a temporary infection is the source of impairment. There are three types of hearing loss a patient may experience:
Hearing aids available today are smaller than what was available even a decade ago, so there's not as much objection to having to wear one. Additionally, the level of precision and control over the device itself is much greater. The main reason to opt for a cochlear implant is to when hearing loss becomes severe and word understanding is less than 50% with hearing aids. An ENT who specializes in the ear (otologist / neurotologist) will give a patient the information they need to make a comfortable decision, including the results of comprehensive hearing tests and a discussion of available options.