Expansion of eligibility criteria means more people will benefit from cochlear implants

Many more people across England and Wales with hearing loss will be able to access the life-changing benefits of a cochlear implant. This is the result of a decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to expand the criteria used when determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant within the NHS.

The threshold for eligibility has been reduced to equal or greater than 80 dB HL (decibels hearing loss) at two or more frequencies without the use of hearing aids, down from 90 dB HL for children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss. 80 dB is equivalent to an alarm clock.

This important change follows concerted campaigning from the hearing-impaired community, healthcare professionals, Cochlear and key groups including the British Academy of Audiology (BAA), the British Society of Audiology (BSA) and the British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG).

Against the backdrop of these guidance changes, a global survey by Cochlear Ltd to assess the impact and understand attitudes to hearing loss highlights people in the UK are least likely of any country surveyed to have had a hearing test in the last two years.

Cochlear’s 2019 State of Hearing Report reveals 96% of adults in the UK think hearing is important to their overall quality of life, yet more than 7 in 10 (71%) of people who believe they have hearing loss have not had their hearing checked.

Stuart Thomas, General Manager, U.K. Ireland & South Africa, Cochlear, says:

Most hearing loss is treatable and some is preventable, but it’s not prioritized in the same way as other health conditions. We are committed to improving the lives of people living with hearing loss through extensive research, development and constant innovation. We want as many people as possible to benefit from this criteria change, so that more people can reach their potential and lead full and connected lives.”

The State of Hearing Report, which surveyed 2,248 people across the UK, highlights that untreated hearing loss is having a detrimental impact upon relationships. 46% of the UK population surveyed have a close family member who suffers from moderate through to profound hearing loss, with 86% stating it impacts their family member’s ability to communicate.

As a result, 62% of people in the UK believe that hearing loss can result in withdrawal and isolation from society.

At the same time, 7 in 10 of those surveyed believe hearing loss is an inevitable part of aging, causing delays in prevention, monitoring and treatment, and leading to people living a poorer quality of life. Cochlear’s State of Hearing 2019 report outlines a clear need for people to take action to address preventable and treatable hearing loss.

Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon, Mr David Selvadurai, of St George’s Hospital, London, says:

I see people every week who could benefit from a cochlear implant but have been outside of the previous NICE guidance. These individuals can now have a simple surgical procedure that is genuinely life changing.

Many people don’t seem to be aware how much better they could be with a cochlear implant, how safe and straightforward the surgery now is and the huge range of potential benefits they might enjoy. Cochlear implants allow adults to re-enter many social situations, feel safer in the outside world and for many, offer the possibility of talking to friends and family over the telephone. This change of criteria will make a real impact on the kind of care we can deliver to many of our patients.”

Cochlear and the World Health Organization are urging people around the world to treat their hearing as a vital health priority by having their hearing checked as a regular part of ongoing healthcare.

Dr Huw Cooper, Cochlear UK’s Implant Team Manager, says:

As the world’s population continues to live longer, preventing hearing loss, while maintaining and restoring hearing, will become imperative for general health and wellbeing. Getting a hearing test can be the first step in making sure people maintain their quality of life and continue to be part of society. Even if you are currently wearing hearing aids, regular check-ups are important as there are other options available.

Hearing loss is frequently dismissed as an inevitable part of aging, leading to delays in action and people living a poorer quality of life. Hearing loss is a significant health issue impacting our ability to have normal conversations with loved ones and friends. It impacts our ability to stay connected, healthy and productive.”

Today disabling hearing loss affects 466 million people around the world, with one in three people over the age of 65 living with severe to profound forms of the condition. World Health Organization figures predict the total number of people living with hearing loss will nearly double by 2050 and this increase will be most noticeable amongst older people.

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