Researchers at New York University Langone Medical Center have found that healthy elderly patients who have severe to profound hearing loss can undergo surgery to receive cochlear implants with minimal risk. This is good news for the millions of older Americans who suffer with hearing loss.
Hearing Loss Among the Elderly
According to the National Institute on Aging, about 33 percent of Americans between ages 65 and 74 have hearing problems. By age 85 and older, that number increases to 50 percent. About 10 percent of elderly people have a hearing impairment that is so severe traditional hearing aids are not helpful.
Hearing loss can have a devastating impact on the lives of elderly people, causing depression, an inability to communicate properly, mental impairment, personality changes, financial decline, and social isolation. Therefore techniques that can improve their ability to hear will also have many benefits in other areas of their lives.
Recent Hearing Loss Study
The researchers performed a retrospective review of 70 patients older than 70 years of age who had received cochlear implants under general anesthesia between 1984 and 2007. Most of the patients tolerated the procedure well, and none had long-term morbidity or mortality related to the anesthesia or the surgery.
As a result of the study, the investigators concluded that general anesthesia is handled well by elderly patients who undergo cochlear implantation, and that any preexisting medical condition is likely a better predictor of complications during or after surgery than age alone. They urge physicians to reconsider cochlear implantation for their elderly patients who suffer with significant hearing loss and who cannot benefit from conventional hearing assistance devices.
Quality of Life after Cochlear Implant
In another study, which was presented at the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation Annual Meeting, researchers noted that elderly patients experience a significant improvement in quality of life after receiving cochlear implants. They also noted that having a concomitant condition such as heart disease did not lower the quality of life improvement in these older patients.
Experts believe that outcomes of cochlear implantation surgery will continue to improve as new implant techniques and better speech rehabilitation methods are developed.