In New Zealand the Ministry of Health’s policy is to only fund one Cochlear Implant for a child. This is despite most countries similar to New Zealand having moved to funding bilateral Cochlear Implants.

This position is now not able to be clinically justified. The overwhelming weight of research shows:

  • there are substantial benefits to children who have bilateral Cochlear Implants
  • the effectiveness of the second Cochlear Implant reduces as the gap between implantation lengthens

The benefits of bilateral Cochlear Implants are numerous. One of the major benefits for children is the ability to hear in the classroom. New Zealand classrooms typically have poor acoustic properties which ironically make them difficult places to learn.

This paper by Dunn et al entitled Bilateral and Unilateral Cochlear Implant Users Compared on Speech Perception in Noise shows just how much better bilateral Cochlear Implant users hear in noise compared to unilateral users. This graphic is telling:

Bilaterals in noise

In this graph, the lower the result is better.

The Ministry of Health need to accept the weight of evidence is now overwhelming that bilateral Cochlear Implants are necessary for children with severe to profound bilateral sensory neural hearing loss. They are welcome to argue on the grounds of affordability. But to argue on any clinical grounds is intellectually and morally dishonest.

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