More People Eligible for Cochlear Implants Thanks to Expanded Criteria

By Morgan deBlecourt
January 02, 2020
A provider works with a patient

People with severe hearing loss in just one ear may now be eligible to receive cochlear implants. These surgically implanted devices not only improve a person’s overall hearing, but also boost their speech understanding as well as their ability to identify a sound’s source and proximity. People with this or any kind of hearing loss have better outcomes the earlier they receive an implant.

Maximized Hearing Potential and Improved Quality of Life

In July 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved cochlear implantation in people with single-sided deafness or asymmetrical hearing impairment. Before that, only people with bilateral hearing loss (meaning hearing loss in both ears) were eligible. That left out people who had “one good ear” but were still struggling to hear and communicate. This increases the risk for social isolation and depression in adults, and delayed language and speech development in children. Duke audiologist Alexa Hornik, AuD, believes the expanded criteria are an important step for people with hearing loss on one side.

“When you have only one hearing ear, it’s fine in quiet situations. But when you get into a noisy room, or in more dynamic listening situations, or you are trying to tell where sound is coming from, you physically cannot do that with just one hearing ear,” Hornik said.

Many people with hearing loss experience tinnitus in their bad ear, which can also be debilitating. Research shows that cochlear implantation can reduce or eliminate tinnitus, which is another bump to quality of life.

“This population has been underserved in terms of what we could provide them,” Hornik said. “There are devices that transmit sound from the bad ear over to the good ear. And that’s useful for some people, but it can still be quite limiting. Truly being able to restore hearing to both ears and giving full stereo sound quality to more people is very, very exciting.”

Am I Eligible?

Other eligibility criteria require people to:

  • Have sensorineural hearing loss (meaning the cause stems from the inner ear or cochlea)
  • Have one or both auditory nerves present
  • Receive little or no benefit from hearing aids
  • Be healthy enough to have surgery

If you or a loved one have hearing loss, cochlear implantation may be an option. Our expert audiologists can assess your situation and help you find the solution that is right for you.

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