Open Access
Feature Article

Cochlear implants – the best option for severe hearing loss in adults

Open Access
Feature Article

Cochlear implants – the best option for severe hearing loss in adults

Melville da Cruz

Figures

© robynroper/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only
© robynroper/istockphoto.com model used for illustrative purposes only
Associate Professor da Cruz is an ENT Surgeon in the Department of Otolaryngology at Westmead Hospital, The University of Sydney, Sydney; and a Cochlear Implant Surgeon at NextSense Cochlear Implant Services, Sydney, NSW.

Abstract

Severe hearing loss can have a major impact  on a person's employment and quality of life. The surgical implantation of an electronic prosthesis into the inner ear, commonly known as cochlear implantation, is now the intervention of choice for adults with severe-to-profound levels of hearing loss. GPs play an important role in identifying potential candidates for cochlear implantation and encouraging them to seek specialist advice.

Key Points

  • Severe hearing loss can affect quality of life and growing evidence suggests that it is also associated with cognitive decline in older adults.
  • Cochlear implantation is the intervention of choice for older adult patients with severe-to-profound hearing loss, with a significant increase in the number of patients aged over 70 years receiving the implant.
  • The fundamental indication for cochlear implantation is bilateral severe-to-profound hearing loss for which well-adjusted hearing aids have given little or no benefit.
  • Well-selected candidates with reasonable expectations can achieve highly satisfying outcomes from cochlear implantation, including benefits to auditory communication within their work and social environments.
  • GPs have an important role in recognising potential candidates for cochlear implantation and facilitating their preliminary investigations.

Hearing loss is common in the community.1 When mild, it responds well to a hearing aid and the disability associated with it can be minimised. However, disability increases with the extent of the hearing loss and when the loss is severe, it can have a major impact on a person's employment and quality of life. Safety in dangerous environments also becomes a significant issue.

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The surgical implantation of an electronic prosthesis into the inner ear, commonly known as cochlear implantation, is now the intervention of choice for patients with severe-to-profound levels of hearing loss. For the severely deafened patient for whom the most powerful hearing aids have failed, the outcomes of implantation are often dramatic with beneficial improvement in hearing and communication ability. These benefits are shared with the recipient’s family, social associates and work colleagues.