Medical Treatments Of Hearing Impairments

Medical Treatments of Hearing Impairments

By Emily Young

There are currently two main types of medical aids for people who are hearing impaired: hearing aids and cochlear implants. It is important for teachers to know about treatments of hearing impairments in the situation that a student is utilizing such electronic devices or may benefit from one in the future.

Hearing Aids

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that is worn in or behind the ear and functions to amplify sound. It consists of a microphone, an amplifier, and a speaker, which work together to receive sound, convert the sound to electrical signals, amplifies the signals, and then sends them to the ear. There are two main types of hearing aids, analog and digital electronic aids, where analog converts sound waves into electrical signals and digital converts the waves into numerical codes. Digital aids tend to be more expensive than analog aids because they can be adjusted to fit the user’s hearing needs with greater flexibility. The three styles of these aids are behind the ear, in the ear, and in the ear canal.

Hearing aids can be useful in improving the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing impairments that are a result of damage to the hair cells within the inner ear. These hair cells are the primary components in turning sounds into a form that the brain can process – electrical signals. Such hearing loss is called sensorineural hearing loss, and is caused as a result of disease, aging or injury. Because the hearing aid depends on the presence of some hair cells, the greater the extent of the hearing loss due to damage of these cells, the more amplification is needed. If the ear is too damaged, a hearing aid may be ineffective.


Cochlear Implants

In addition to hearing aids there exist cochlear implants of increasing complexity and effectiveness. Cochlear implants are small, complex electronic devices, composed of an external part that sits behind the ear and a surgically inserted part underneath the skin, which can provide a sense of sound to the hearing impaired. A cochlear implant consists of a microphone, a speech processor, a transmitter and receiver to transmit speech into electrical impulses, and an electrode ray to send impulses to different areas of the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants do not restore hearing, but can give a deaf person an accurate representation of sounds and speech in the environment. Cochlear implants are different from hearing aids in that they bypass damaged portions of the ear and directly stimulate the auditory nerve, versus amplifying sounds so that the damaged ear can detect them.

Nearly 100,000 deaf or severely hearing impaired people worldwide have benefited from cochlear implants, along with post-implantation therapy to learn the sense of hearing. Most children who receive implants are between the ages of 2 to 6 years old, before entrance into grade school. Children with implants can learn to acquire speech, language, and social skills.


For more information on hearing aids and cochlear implants, please contact:

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free Voice: (800) 241-1044
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055
Fax: (301) 770-8977
E-mail: vog.hin.dcdin|ofnidcdin#vog.hin.dcdin|ofnidcdin


National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2007). Hearing Aids. Retrieved on July 29, 2007 from

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (2007). Cochlear Implants. Retrieved on July 29, 2007 from