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Study: Cochlear Implants Boost Hearing in Adults

Update Date: Feb 24, 2013 09:08 PM EST

As 17 percent of U.S. adults have some degree of hearing loss, and the chance of becoming hard of hearing increases with age, cochlear implants can improve speech and quality of life in adults with severe hearing loss, according to a new study.

Researchers looked at 42 studies that compared hearing, speech and quality of life in qualifying adults before they had received a cochlear implant and again afterwards in order to make comparison between having one versus two functioning implants. The study was posted online  in JAMA Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that 250,000 Americans out of 48 million with hearing loss have severe hearing loss or deafness. Those Americans have tried hearing loses and unfortunately was unsuccessful so many of them are considering cochlear implants. 

"Unilateral cochlear implants provide improved hearing and significantly improve quality of life, and improvements in sound localization are noted for bilateral implantation," wrote researchers led by James Gaylor from Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

A cochlear implant is made up of three parts, a microphone to which collects the sound from the outside; a speech processor, which transmits the sound from analog into a radiofrequency signal; and finally a receiver, which is a small chip that has been surgically implanted under the scalp, which converts the radiofrequency signal into a digital one.

"Our hope is that this paper will allow providers, payers and most importantly patients to ... make more informed decisions about cochlear implantation," Gaylor added. 

The authors found 16 studies of unilateral implantation involving 3,000 patients, 15 studies of bilateral implantation involving 461 patients, and 15 studies that assessed quality of life after cochlear implantation.

In their discussion of the quality of the studies reviewed, the authors acknowledged challenges to generating the funds needed for further high-quality trials.

"We hope that the identification of this need will motivate funding sources to support future work," they concluded.

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