Cochlear Implants Can Benefit the Elderly

Age not a good yardstick for gauging who will benefit from the hearing devices, study finds

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TUESDAY, Dec. 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Age doesn't determine success for people who receive cochlear implant hearing devices.

As a result, the elderly shouldn't be discriminated against in assessments for the devices, according to a Johns Hopkins Hospital study in the December issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

The researchers analyzed research on 749 teens and adults with serious hearing loss who received a cochlear implant, an electronic device that is implanted and connected to the inner ear to treat certain types of hearing loss.

There has been some question whether cochlear implants can help improve the social and emotional difficulties and declines in mental and physical functioning known to occur in elderly people with serious hearing loss.

The researchers examined the difference between baseline performance on monosyllabic word recognition, and performance within the first year after the people received the cochlear implant. They found that postoperative word scores varied widely among all the age groups in the study.

"This study illustrated that age has little predictive value in determining postoperative performance with a cochlear implant, as increasing age seems to have negligible effect on postoperative word scores," the study authors wrote. "In fact, duration of profound deafness, along with the percentage of life lived deaf, hold greater predictive power than age, demonstrating that residual hearing capacity and language abilities may hold the key to postoperative success in the elderly cochlear implant recipient."

"Elderly patients should therefore not be discriminated against in assessments for cochlear implant candidacy," the study authors concluded.

More information

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has more about cochlear implants.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 19, 2005

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