If you're suffering from hearing impairment, you generally have a few options. 

First, you can simply accept it as part of who you are and learn to live with the condition. Alternatively, you might choose to purchase a hearing aid (ideally from a licensed audiologist). Finally, you might choose a cochlear implant as a more permanent option.

If you're going with the first choice, more power to you. If, however, you're uncertain of whether you should go with a hearing aid or a cochlear implant, it may help to know the differences between the two. Because while they're both used to treat hearing impairment, that's more or less where the similarities end. 

In addition to cochlear implants, there are also bone-anchored implants, middle ear implants, and brainstem implants. We'll discuss those in a different piece. For now, let's focus on hearing aids vs. cochlear implants. 
Hearing Aids Cochlear Implants
Typically used in cases of minor to moderate hearing loss. Though some models can be used to mitigate profound hearing loss.  Exclusively used to treat deafness or profound hearing loss. Not recommended for mild to severe hearing loss. 
Come in many different forms, shapes, and sizes. Generally only available in a single format. 
Can be inserted into or removed from the ear at will. Must be surgically implanted. Cannot be freely inserted or removed, though it often contains a removable external component. 
Converts external sound into amplified signals which damaged stereocilia can pick up.  Directly stimulates the auditory nerve via electrical impulses, bypassing the cochlea entirely. 

Risks and side effects include: 

  • Itching and discomfort
  • Cerumen impaction/wax buildup
  • Headaches

Risks and side effects include: 

  • Nerve damage, infection, or fluid leakage as a result of the surgery. 
  • Vertigo or dizziness. 
  • Tinnitus. 
  • Changes in taste. 
  • Numbness.
  • Inflammation 
  • Loss of residual hearing in the event the implant fails. 
  • Inability to be diagnosed via MRI
Price varies depending on the severity of hearing loss and extra features. Generally quite expensive. 

As you've likely surmised from the above, there's a good chance that a hearing aid is a better option for you. This is because they’re less expensive, easier to acquire, and carry fewer risks and side effects. That said, if your hearing loss is severe enough (or your cochlea is severely damaged), a cochlear implant may be your only option.

Ultimately, your best bet is to ask your audiologist for advice. They'll be able to diagnose the exact severity of your hearing loss and recommend the best treatment option from there.

Hearing Aids vs. Cochlear Implants