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Cochlear implant use at an all-time high, audiologist says

Cochlear implant use at an all-time high, audiologist says

As Hearing Week (23 - 30 March) begins, the number of profoundly deaf children and adults receiving cochlear implants is at an all-time high with 596 adults and children currently registered with the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme - compared to 70 in 2003.

The Christchurch-based programme serves profoundly deaf children and adults in the Lower North Island and the South Island.

Its General Manager, Neil Heslop, says the increase does not necessarily mean an overall deterioration in hearing health, but does reflect growing awareness of technologies available to people with significant hearing problems.

Cochlear implants are similar in size to high-powered hearing aids and help severe to profoundly deaf people who gain little or no benefit from hearing aids.

The implants transform speech and other sounds into electrical energy that stimulates auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear.

Heslop says government funding covers the costs of an implant in one ear and some patients or their families choose to fund a second implant themselves.

"Approximately 20 to 25 percent of families pay for a second implant for their children. But it is expensive and costs them between $45,000 and $50,000."

Heslop says cochlear implants change lives.

"We know how effective cochlear implants can be and it is always a delight to see the impact they have on our patients who, literally, hear things differently for the first time in their lives in many cases."


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