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Posted: October 07, 2008

Hearing, Quality of Life Improve with Cochlear Implants in Elderly

Cochlear implants in elderly patients led to better overall hearing as well as improvements in their quality of life on a par achieved in younger patients, according to new research. 

Two-thirds of 31 patients ages 57 to 85 who given cochlear implants reported good or excellent satisfaction and results with the devices, said Dr. Patrick G. Maiberger, Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. Maiberger reported the findings at an American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery meeting in Chicago. 

A cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted electronic device that delivers sound to people with severe hearing loss. Part of the appliance is positioned externally behind the ear and the rest is imbedded in the skin. The apparatus consists of a microphone and speech processor, as well as a receiver that converts signals into electric impulses, and electrodes that transit impulses to the patient’s auditory nerve. 

While cochlear implantation is common in older patients, there has been a debate about the actual benefits, which have not been thoroughly studied in controlled trials, Maiberger said.

He said that while implant performance in audiologic testing does not necessarily correlate with quality of life, the research results in this case revealed positive scores on the social support and general sections of the Glasgow Benefit Inventory rating test, thereby reflecting improvement in quality of life for implant patients. 

In addition, Maiberger said patients with multiple health conditions were no less satisfied with the implants than those in better overall health. 

Maiberger, who was the study’s co-author, told Reuters in an interview that perhaps the most surprising result from the research was that other medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, do not affect the performance of cochlear implants in the elderly. He said this interaction had not been previously studied. 

"Quality of life improves after cochlear implantation in the elderly," Maiberger concluded, adding that the next step for his group is to examine the effect of other demographic factors on quality of life in cochlear implant patients.

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