Making a noise about cochlear implants

Thursday 25 February
Making a noise about cochlear implants

February 25 at 08:56

Today is International Cochlear Implant Day and Cochlear Europe Ltd in the UK, together with implant centres around the country, are celebrating how this technology has changed and  impacted individuals’ lives who have severe to profound hearing loss.

The company and the 21 implant centres in UK and Ireland are sharing stories of people who have recently been implanted and describe their cochlear implant as “a gift”, “a miracle” and “life changing”.

Around 10,000 people in the UK have a cochlear implant, including children who generally have two. However, fewer than 10% of adults who are severely or profoundly deaf and who would qualify for a cochlear implant on the NHS have one. 

“There are a significant number of adults over the age of 65* whose hearing aids are no longer sufficient. For these patients, cochlear implants may provide good outcomes in terms of hearing, self-confidence, autonomy and all round quality of life, regardless of age”, says Mariska Leighton, Cochlear Marketing Manager UK, Ireland and South Africa.

“Age makes no difference,” she says. “Research comparing cochlear implants to hearing aids found that patients using hearing aids gradually lost their ability to understand speech as they grew older. However, for patients using a cochlear implant, speech recognition performance was similar for all ages, with there being no statistical difference between patients aged older and younger than 80.**”

Cochlear is planning its first day of celebration and awareness on February 25, to mark how its implants have transformed the lives of thousands of people in the UK by returning them to a hearing world. The company will be bringing together and sharing the success stories from recipients as well as the professionals who work with cochlear implantation.

“International Cochlear Implant Day is also being celebrated nationally by The Ear Foundation and  Action on Hearing Loss, among many other hearing loss charities, who are working together to increase adult awareness and access to the different hearing solutions available on the NHS that can help older adults now and in the years to come,” adds Ms Leighton.

Hearing loss unsuccessfully treated has been linked to depression, dementia and life threatening falls in adults aged 65-plus. Two-thirds of the older population suffer from hearing loss and for men and women aged 70-plus, it is now the prevalent disability.   

“The longer it takes to treat a patient, the more difficult it is for their brain to readjust to recognise sounds unheard for many years”, said Tracey Twomey, head of the Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme. “We know a lot of adults qualify and are not being referred,” she said.

“This may be because GPs, Audiologists, Ear, Nose and Throat Consultants or patients are misinformed or lacking information, or patients are simply not wanting to go ahead with an implant.”

“We want to encourage severe to profoundly deaf patients to come forward for information and assessment if appropriate.”  
Ms Twomey added, “Living with a cochlear implant is quite straightforward and the NHS provides lifelong support. Nevertheless, it’s a big commitment by the individual and the medical team and needs to be a properly informed choice by the patient. We have to manage expectations, but the results can be life changing.”  

ENT consultant surgeon, Mr Andrew Marshall, from the Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme, said, “There is a potential for the patient to become isolated and withdrawn because they are missing out on social interaction, and so hearing loss has a significant impact on their quality of life.”

“It’s great that industry is coming together to celebrate cochlear implants as there is insufficient awareness of the availability of cochlear implants to treat adults with severe to profound hearing loss, with a clear unmet need in adults in this country.”

If you would like to read more about personal experiences of recipients or would like to speak to somebody with an implant, Chochlear can put you in touch with a volunteer. Visit
If you would like to share your experiences of cochlear implants, or encourage others to do so the hashtag for social media is #celebratecochlear.

*Mosnier I. Cochlear Implant Outcomes in the Elderly, Audiology & Neurotology 2011:17:20-12
** Kiessling et al. Candidature for and delivery of audiological services: Special needs of older people. Int J Audiol 2033; 42:2S92-2S101 Steffens et al. Hearing in the Elderly: Cochlear Implants in comparison to Hearing Aids. Audiology & Neurotology 2011:17:6-7 

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