In New Zealand there is a significant issue with a lack of funding and hence access for adult cochlear implants. This has come about due to a number of reasons, including:
- tight fiscal conditions
- ineffective advocacy by both the established adult advocacy organisation (PinDrop) and by adult users
- a reactive approach to policy in this area by the Ministry of Health
This is not an uncommon issue internationally.
Here is a report on the situation in Belgium.
Here are the key findings…
In New Zealand there are roughly 1,200 cochlear implant users. Statistically there should be over 3,000. This report shows how this iceberg of unmet need is costing individuals and society.
It is time for the Ministry of Health to significantly step up the funding of cochlear implants. The current 40 implants per year for adults should be at least doubled.
In addition the whole service provision of cochlear implants in New Zealand should be reviewed to ensure this significant increase of funding is spent well. Such a review should include the following areas:
- The funding approach by the government
- The provision approach including the use of trusts, the interaction with the education sector and the lack of support for some users
- The use of funds within the current trusts
- The provision of surgical services to ensure they are up to international best practice
- The provision of (re)habilitation services to ensure they are up to international best practice
- The current practice of offering only one brand of cochlear implant
Such a review was meant to have occurred in 2015 but appears to have been shelved due to a lack of priority.
The Ministry of Health should also consider a number of paediatric cochlear implant issues including a lack of any provision for single sided hearing loss. However addressing the adult problem is now a critical.