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More people to access cochlear implants after criteria expansion

Many more people across England and Wales with hearing loss will now be able to access the benefits of a cochlear implant.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has announced that it will expand the criteria that health professionals use when determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant within the NHS.

Fewer than 7% of adults in the UK, who could benefit from a cochlear implant, actually have one.

The British Academy of Audiology (BAA), the British Society of Audiology (BSA), the British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG), and Cochlear,  have joined together to welcome the news as a positive change following concerted campaigning from the hearing care community and healthcare professionals.

Mr Richard Irving, Consultant ENT Surgeon, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust said: ”It has long been felt that the UK has the most conservative criteria for determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant – meaning a significant portion of the population that could benefit from the device have been unable to access it. The UK has been out of step with other countries with more relaxed criteria such as Japan, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Australia, where healthcare professionals have more flexibility. There has been growing concern that people could unnecessarily be suffering negative emotional and physical consequences from hearing loss and — for those for whom this is an appropriate solution — missing out on a short surgical procedure could have a major impact on their quality of life.”

Sue Falkingham, President of the British Academy of Audiology, added: “It is vital that people with hearing loss can access a full range of treatments and are able to make an informed choice about what is right for them. For many people hearing aids are the best option; but for the right people a cochlear implant is more appropriate.”

Tracey Twomey, Chair of the British Cochlear Implant Group and a Consultant Clinical Scientist (Audiology) said: “This is a fabulous development and so good for our patients. For too long we have had to turn people away who may have benefited from an implant because they didn’t fit the previous NICE criteria.”

To read the full report, visit NICE website.