A lot has changed since the first cochlear implant was performed more than 30 years ago. Successful in a wide range of patients, including the elderly, cochlear implantation is now the standard of care for treatment of severe to profound bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. And recent improvements in technology have made cochlear implants accessible to a new set of deserving patients—those with some residual hearing.
Cochlear implant candidacy has evolved dramatically since multichannel implants were first approved in 1985 for adults and in 1990 for the pediatric population. “Previously, individuals were required to have a profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears—that is, minimal to no speech recognition—in order to be considered a candidate for cochlear implantation,” said Erin Blackburn, AuD, MS, co-director of the cochlear implant program at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Over the past five to 10 years, the candidacy criteria have become less rigid and now include individuals with more residual hearing, Dr. Blackburn said.
“Now that we know that cochlear implants work and that the outcome is reliable for the vast majority of people, we are implanting people with moderate to profound hearing loss, not just profound hearing loss,” said Anil K. Lalwani, MD, professor and vice chair for research, director of the division of otology, neurology, and skull base surgery, and director of the Columbia Cochlear Implantation Program at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City.