Breaking the Silence

Embracing Change for Cochlear Implant Awareness on World Hearing Day

Hearing loss is lonely from Pindrop Foundation on Vimeo.



March 3rd, World Hearing Day 2024 shines a spotlight on hearing loss and changing mindsets. In Aotearoa, New Zealand, this call to action resonates with us, especially in the context of cochlear implants (CIs) – a transformative solution for many living with severe hearing impairments. Yet, amidst technological advances and success stories, myths and stigma about cochlear implants persist, particularly for adults. 


The Current Landscape
In Aotearoa, while 120 cochlear implants are funded annually, this provision falls short of meeting the comprehensive needs of the adult population. Adults with single-sided deafness (SSD), a condition where significant hearing loss occurs in one ear while the other may have normal hearing or a lesser degree of loss, are currently left without funded support for CIs. Additionally, adults with bilateral hearing loss are often only eligible for a CI in one ear despite bilateral implants' significant advantages.


Busting Myths and Stigma
The journey towards acceptance and understanding of cochlear implants is paved with myths and misconceptions. Some view CIs as a last resort rather than a viable option for enhancing quality of life. Others fear the surgical procedure or doubt the effectiveness of implants in restoring hearing. However, stories of CI users like Josie Calcott and Richard Milne challenge these misconceptions, showcasing the profound impact of bilateral CIs on an individual's ability to engage with the world around them.


The Benefits of Bilateral Cochlear Implants
Bilateral cochlear implants offer a range of advantages over a single implant, closely mimicking the natural hearing process that involves both ears. These benefits include an improved ability to localise sound, enhanced clarity in noisy environments, and a more balanced hearing experience. For individuals like Josie and Richard, bilateral CIs have facilitated better communication and increased confidence and independence.



Addressing Single-Sided Deafness
The importance of treating SSD with cochlear implants cannot be overstated. Living with SSD can significantly affect spatial awareness of sound, making it challenging to determine where sounds are coming from, which is crucial for safety and engaging in social environments. CIs can provide a sense of auditory balance and spatial orientation, drastically improving the quality of life for those with SSD.


A Call to Action: Changing Mindsets and Policies
This World Hearing Day, the call to change mindsets extends beyond individual perceptions to encompass policy reform. The limitations in funding for cochlear implants, particularly for adults with SSD or those requiring bilateral implants, need to be addressed. It's a call for equity in hearing care, ensuring that all individuals who could benefit from cochlear implants have the opportunity to do so.

We urge community members to advocate for this change by speaking to their MPs, sharing their stories with local media, discussing the importance of SSD and bilateral CIs with their GPs, and raising awareness in their workplaces and social circles. Through these conversations, we can begin to dismantle the myths and stigma surrounding cochlear implants and move towards a future where comprehensive hearing care is accessible to all.

World Hearing Day 2024 catalyses change, inspiring action and advocacy for including SSD treatment and bilateral cochlear implants in funded healthcare. Together, we can shift perceptions and policies, ensuring that every individual with hearing loss in Aotearoa has the chance to hear and engage fully with the world around them.