Unaddressed hearing loss also places untold and mainly unacknowledged burdens on our health service as well as our lives. Recent research from the Ear Foundation found that in England the additional costs associated with hearing loss are soaring to over £30.13 billion per year, for medical and social costs. Hearing loss is associated with greater use of medical and social services but increased use of hearing aids and cochlear implants leads to less use of health and social care services. (Ear Foundation, 2015; 2016)
Numbers of People who could benefit from a Cochlear Implant
The number of people who could benefit from cochlear implants in the UK is significant. There are an estimated 100,000 people with a profound hearing loss and 360,000 with a severe hearing loss who might benefit from implantation at any one time. However recent figures show that at best only a very small proportion of adults of around 5% with profound hearing loss are implanted (Raine, 2016). Yet the benefits of cochlear implants have been proven now over many years. Cochlear implants are cost effective on any current cost benefit measure but particularly if the true costs of hearing loss are considered including the cost of NOT addressing hearing loss. The cost benefit analysis for Cochlear Implants would be even more positive if these costs are taken into account. Further widening candidacy could be funded without additional longer term public costs through the savings made to other health budgets according to new research from the Ear Foundation (Lamb et al., 2015, 2016 a&b; O’Neill, 2016). The World Health Organisation has also argued for expansion of access to cochlear implantation, confirming the cost-effectiveness of the intervention. (WHO 2017)
The Effectiveness of Cochlear Implants
The effectiveness of Cochlear Implants has improved massively since the last NICE Review in 2009. The power sophistication of processing and programming, dual microphones, wireless connections, all ensure that the technology is more effective. A review of the evidence supporting the growing effectiveness of cochlear implants over the past several decades found that average open sentence set identification averaged less than 40% for sound processors in the 1990s compared to an average 80% correct score with modern technology, even without visual cues. (Dowell 2012)
Lamb, B. Archbold, S. O’Neill, C.(2015) Bending the Spend: Expanding technology to improve health, wellbeing and save public money. Ear Foundation 2015.
Lamb, B. Archbold, S. O’Neill, C. (2016 a) Improving Access to Cochlear Implants: Change Lives and save society money. Ear Foundation.
Lamb, B. (2016b) Expert opinion: Can different assessments be used to overcome current candidacy issues?, Cochlear Implants International, 17:sup1, 3-7,