How to Know if a Cochlear Implant Can Help Your Severe Hearing Loss
Hearing aids are the tiny, discrete powerhouses that house advanced technology allowing people with moderate to severe hearing loss to hear again. Since each person’s hearing loss is unique, a hearing aid may not always be the best choice. For some, a cochlear implant may be the best option for improving hearing.
Both hearing aids and cochlear implants come with their own set of benefits and limitations, so knowing which is best suited to you and your hearing requirements will help you determine the best course of treatment.
To help you determine which direction you should go on your hearing journey, Attune Hearing has covered questions surrounding cochlear implants for those who have little to no hearing. Today, we will define the meaning of severe hearing loss, its impacts and cover the pros and cons of both hearing loss solutions.
What is Severe Hearing Loss?
Severe hearing loss means you can hear some noises naturally, but the quality of hearing is poor. You may be able to hear someone shouting but not be able to hear face to face conversations at an everyday volume. Someone who lives with severe hearing loss may understand some speech and use visual information like body language and facial expressions to fill in the gaps.
How does hearing loss affect people?
Hearing loss affects everyone differentPeopleople with hearing loss can often experience a drop in self-esteem and confidence since their ability to communicate with other people is more difficult. Having a hearing loss can also limit one’s ability to speak a new language.
Other impacts of having a severe hearing loss may include:
- Difficulty talking 1:1 with someone even in a quiet environment
- Needing to ask people for repeats regularly as you can’t hear them clearly
- Unable to follow group (> 2 people) conversations
- Struggling or unable to hear in situations with background noise
- Feeling tired from the greater effort of listening because you can’t hear
- Becoming depressed as relationships suffer from the poor communication
- Social isolation because you can’t hear well enough to join in conversations
- Avoiding or not using the phone
- Not able to enjoy TV programs as before because you can’t hear the speech clearly
How common is severe hearing loss?
Hearing difficulty is extremely common and can happen in many different ways to people of all ages. In fact, one in five Australians experiences hearing difficulties. Over half of the population aged between 60 and 70 years old have hearing loss issues. So, wearing a hearing aid, cochlear implant, or both would be beneficial.
How is severe hearing loss caused?
Most hearing loss results from ageing or genetics, but one-third of people acquire their hearing loss through preventable means. Experts believe that 37 per cent of the hearing loss experienced by individuals was caused by preventable and repeated exposure to loud noise, known as noise-induced hearing loss.
How is severe hearing loss diagnosed?
Only a hearing test can determine your level and degree of hearing loss. The results of a hearing test also provide recommendations on suitable hearing solutions. Attending a full diagnostic hearing test is the first step on the way to better hearing health. Your Attune audiologist will also be able to advise you about the advantages of hearing aids and cochlear implants as stand-alone products and as well as in combination with each other. After an official diagnosis, someone with severe hearing loss may choose to wear hearing aids or have a cochlear implant to help them hear better.
What Are Hearing Aids?
Hearing aids are small removable devices worn in or behind the ear that amplify sound for people with some residual hearing. As advanced digital technology, hearing aids can allow the user to customise their hearing experience to suit them.
Hearing Aids vs Cochlear Implants
There are different reasons for choosing a hearing aid over a cochlear implant. Before you can determine which hearing aid solution is best for you, you’d first need to see an audiologist who can further explain the specifications and features of each hearing device.
You may also consult other health professionals, such as your GP or an ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) specialist. These medical professionals can refer you for a diagnostic hearing test, hearing aid discussion, and a cochlear implant assessment if indicated.
Hearing aid advantages:
- Hearing aids come in a wide range of prices
- Cost much less than getting a cochlear implant
- Hearing aids of today allow people to hear the sounds of the world around them with immediate speech recognition at work and play
- The digital nature of hearing aids allows for a highly customisable experience
- Natural sound quality and auto-adjusts for different listening environments
Did you know you may be eligible for free hearing aid subsidies?
You may be eligible for free hearing services and subsidised hearing aids through the government system (Hearing Services Program HSP). If you are in a health fund, then you may be able to get some rebate towards the cost of hearing aids. To find out if you qualify for hearing aid subsidies, check with your relevant health fund or ask your audiologist about different funding options.
What Are Cochlear Implants?
Like a hearing aid, a cochlear implant is also a tiny device. The difference is these are surgically and discretely implanted behind a person’s ear. The implant helps you hear better by communicating with an external sound processor. The processor is worn on the head just behind the top of the ear and held in place magnetically. Only ENT Implant specialists can surgically perform the procedure.
What is the difference between hearing aids and cochlear implants?
Unlike hearing aids, cochlear implants do not amplify sound. Instead, they channel sound to bypass the damaged parts of the cochlea and directly stimulate the auditory nerve. The implant generates electrical signals that it sends to the auditory nerve, which then passes it onto the auditory part of the brain, where they are recognised as sounds.
How does a cochlear implant affect your hearing?
A cochlear implant does not sound like natural speech when first turned on. Your audiologist can help you give these sounds meaning and will provide auditory rehabilitation training over the weeks and months following your implant surgery.
Getting a cochlear implant is not suitable for everyone and involves invasive surgery and great commitment post-surgery. It requires months of auditory training assisted by your audiologist to achieve the best outcome.
How are you determined suitable for a cochlear implant?
Your audiologist will assist you before and during a cochlear implant assessment. If the following sounds familiar, a cochlear implant might be right for you:
- Severe hearing loss and can’t hear well in both ears
- Single-sided deafness
- Restricted social activities
- Job in jeopardy
- Stopped using phone/s due to poor speech understanding
- Emotional isolation
- One-on-one discussions become difficult/tiring because you can’t hear properly
- Hearing aids fail to restore communication
- Reliance on lip reading
- Unable to participate in group discussions because you can’t hear over the cross-talk
Advantages of Cochlear Implants
Cochlear implants are an excellent option for enhancing hearing when powerful hearing aids no longer work. For the right person, a cochlear implant makes communication and social interaction with family, friends and colleagues easier and more enjoyable.
- Cochlear implants are best for those with severe to profound hearing loss
- Cochlear implants provide the possibility of experiencing sound when before it was impossible
- It can completely change a recipient’s life from isolation to social inclusion
- There are a few different avenues for funding a Cochlear implant.
Can Hearings Aids and Cochlear Implants be Used Together?
Cochlear implants help people with severe to profound hearing loss who do not receive enough benefit when using hearing aids. For some people, using a hearing aid with severe to profound hearing loss can be like listening to a loud, poorly tuned radio. However, some people can’t hear and still benefit from well-fitted hearing aids.
On the other hand, some people have a severe loss and wear a hearing aid in one ear and have a cochlear implant in the other ear. This combination of two different hearing solutions has become very common. This is because we know that it is essential to keep stimulating the hearing nerve to the brain as long as possible. The brain can learn to adapt to hearing sounds in two different ways (acoustic via the hearing aid, electrical via the cochlear implant) and put all the information together to give meaning to words and sentences to enable conversation.
Hearing from two ears is the natural way to listen and gives us the ability to understand where a sound is coming from. It also helps us hear better in complex noise environments. Those assessed as eligible to wear a hearing aid and a cochlear implant will find it the best way forward.
How Attune Hearing Can Help
With the assistance of modern technology, people who have lost their hearing, whether full or to varying degrees, can lead a long and happy life, just like someone who doesn’t experience hearing loss.
If you feel that either hearing aids, a cochlear implant, or a combination of both may help you or a loved one, please see your audiologist as soon as possible. If you have any questions about hearing aids or cochlear implants for severe hearing loss, feel free to give us a call or get in touch with your local Attune Hearing clinic to schedule an appointment.