A cochlear implant is uniquely different from a hearing aid. A hearing aid works by amplifying and making the everyday sounds in the environment louder. By increasing the level of the sound, this can often surpass the patient's threshold for hearing as determined by his/her level of hearing loss and simultaneously improving the patient's ability to hear and communicate. Traditionally, hearing aids are adequate for patients with mild to moderately-severe sensorineural hearing losses as well as patients with inoperable forms of conductive hearing loss.
Contrastingly however, a cochlear implant is an excellent method of treatment and intervention for patients who have levels of hearing loss in the severe to profound range or those who can no longer benefit from traditional amplification/hearing aids. The cochlear implant is classified by medical terminology as a "neural prosthetic device" similar to a pacemaker or heart defibrillator.
The cochlear implant consists of two distinct pieces; one is an internal receiver/stimulator (surgically implanted) and the second is the external speech processor, which is worn on the outer ear (pinna) and looks similar in appearance to a behind-the-ear hearing aid. Both of these pieces must be present for the system to work for the patient as they are coupled across the skin and through the hair by magnetism. The internal receiver houses a magnet and the external portion magnetizes to the internal connection.
The function of the cochlear implant as well as the surgical process will be fully addressed with each patient at the initial clinical cochlear implant evaluation. Both the audiologist as well as the implant physician are knowledgeable in the process and would be happy to address additional questions you may have regarding this medical procedure.