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Government announcement will change lives significantly

Government announcement will change lives significantly

The head of the Christchurch-based Southern Cochlear Implant Programme says today’s announcement of extra funding for cochlear implants will significantly change the lives of children with profound hearing loss.

The devices are similar in size to high-powered hearing aids. They help people who gain little or no benefit from standard hearing aids by transforming speech and other sounds into electrical energy that stimulates auditory nerve fibres in the inner ear.

Under current policy, children with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears receive one funded cochlear implant. But from July newly referred children will be offered two funded implants, and children under six who currently have one device will also be offered a second.

Neil Heslop, the General Manager of the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme that serves profoundly deaf children and adults in the Lower North Island and the South Island, says it is a significant announcement.

“While the majority of children do extremely well with a single implant, the benefit of having an implant in each ear is significant. Some families have chosen to fund a second implant themselves. But with each implant costing between $45,000 and $50,000, no more than a quarter of our families have been able to afford it.”

Heslop says families who have funded a second device themselves will not begrudge the new funding, as they know the benefits of two cochlear implants. He is delighted that the Government announcement includes funding for free repairs and batteries for these families.

"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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