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Cochlear implants to be made available for more people with deafness and hearing loss

4 January 2019

National charity RNID is celebrating the news today that thanks to its tireless campaigning more people who need and want cochlear implants will be able to benefit from this life-changing treatment.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) has revealed that following a lengthy consultation it will change its guidance on who qualifies for cochlear implants, which charities, campaigners and researchers had noted were some of the most restrictive in Europe.

NICE has changed its guidance to include a more accurate test for assessing hearing function in adults and lower the level of hearing loss someone needs to have in order to qualify for cochlear implants.

As a member of the Adult Cochlear Implant Action Group, RNID had lobbied for change to the candidacy criteria having heard from a number of supporters that were denied cochlear implants, despite having debilitating levels hearing loss.

Diane Matthews, who launched a petition on the issue which was supported by many – including Jim Fitzpatrick MP, said: “I am over the moon to hear that this much needed change is finally here. This has been due to the tireless work of many people, professionals, researchers and patients included.

“From 2011 I was routinely tested for a cochlear implant, as my hearing aids did not provide me with enough useful hearing. However, due to the current testing being so restrictive and not reflecting real-life situations and surroundings, I was unable to progress further until my hearing loss deteriorated more. It’s heartbreaking wanting your hearing to get worse in order to start your journey with a cochlear implant.

I finally qualified for a cochlear implant in 2017, which has been life changing after twenty years struggling in all day-to-day situations with two hearing aids. This made life very difficult and I had become withdrawn and depressed.

The changes to these guidelines will benefit many more people who are struggling as I was. It will improve their social, domestic and work lives and give them the opportunity to enjoy the world of sound around them.”

Dr. Roger Wicks, Director of Policy and Campaigns at RNID said: “We welcome these changes to NICE’s guidance on cochlear implants. Currently, just 5% of adults who could benefit from cochlear implants receive one. This is in part because the way people’s hearing function is currently assessed doesn’t reflect how speech is understood or heard in real life.

“Adults in England also need to have near-profound deafness to qualify currently, when research shows that cochlear implants may benefit people with lower levels of hearing loss. This has meant that many people have actually had to wait for their hearing to get worse before they can have access to this transformative treatment.”

The charity not only worked as part of the Action Group providing evidence to NICE, it also funded research and sped up the consultation process by working with Jim Fitzpatrick MP to hold a parliamentary debate on the issue, which took place in 2017.

Roger continued: “This new guidance is a huge step forward for people with severe to profound hearing loss. The government’s Action Plan on Hearing Loss in 2015 explicitly stated that more people should have access to cochlear implants, and these changes will enable many more to enjoy the life-changing benefits of this treatment.”

For more information about the NICE guidance on cochlear implants for children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss, visit: https://www.nice.org.uk/news/article/hundreds-more-children-and-adults-eligible-for-cochlear-implants-on-the-nhs

More information about cochlear implants

Notes to editors

RNID is the national charity helping people living with deafness, tinnitus and hearing loss to live the life they choose. RNID enables them to take control of their lives and remove the barriers in their way, giving people support and care, developing technology and treatments, and campaigning for equality.

In 2009, NICE approved cochlear implantation as a cost effective form of treatment for adults and children with severe or profound levels of hearing loss who derive little or no benefit from hearing aids.

NICE’s Cochlear implants for children and adults with severe to profound deafness guideline (TA 166) recommends one cochlear implant for adults and two for children, as well as two for adults who also have sight loss or other disabilities that increase their reliance on hearing.

NICE announced today that it has made the following changes to the candidacy criteria for cochlear implants (Recommendation 1.5 in the Guideline):

  • changing the definition of severe to profound hearing loss to include people with hearing loss of 80dBHL or more. This change was made to take account of new research demonstrating the benefits of cochlear implants in people with levels of hearing loss lower than 90 dB HL.
  • changing the recommended test used to assess adequate benefit form hearing aids in adults from the Bamford-Kowal-Bench (BKB) sentence test to Arthur Boothroyd (AB) word test. This change was made following research showing that word-based listening tests are more appropriate than sentence-based listening tests for assessing sufficient benefit from hearing aids in some patients.

Page last updated: 30 January 2023

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