“You would always choose to have two if you can do it” – Colin Brown (CI Surgeon)
In New Zealand the government funds only one Cochlear Implant for children (0-18yo) who have severe to profound hearing loss. The only exception to this is where a child has suffered hearing loss through bacterial meningitis. Meningitis causes the cochlear to harden so there is only a short window in which an implant can be inserted. In these cases, a second implant may be provided (but not the processor – the parents have to fund this) as it becomes more difficult to implant a second ear at a later date.
There are currently just over 350 children (0-18yo) with Cochlear Implants in New Zealand. 23% of these children have bilateral implants. The vast majority of these second ears have been funded through parents fundraising.
This video provides a good coverage of the NZ situation
The Ministry of Health’s current position is that there is a “small trade-off” being made to ensure all children who need a Cochlear Implant get one. This “small trade-off” includes:
- A reduced level of hearing (volume)
- Difficulties in hearing in noisy environments
- Slower uptake of language – which manifests itself in lost opportunities for the child
- Inability to pick the direction of sounds – including the sound of approaching cars
- Longer need for classroom support (ironically funded by the government)
We don’t think this “small trade-off” is right. In fact we think that this “small trade-off” ends up costing the government and society significantly more in the long run.