Budget announcement ends years of silence for deaf New Zealanders

14th May 2020

Hundreds of deaf New Zealanders will no longer have to live in silence, following today’s Budget announcement of increased funding for adult cochlear implants. 
 
New Zealand’s two cochlear implant providers – the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme (NCIP) and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) – welcomed the Government’s decision, adding that adequate funding has been a long time coming.
 
Northern Cochlear Implant Trust Chairman, Andrew Nicoll says the Government’s decision to fund an additional x implants will have a life-changing impact on the lives of adults who are often isolated by the nature of their disability.
 
“In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdown, we heard messages from the Government about how to look after your mental health, due to the known negative impact isolation and loneliness can have on our wellbeing,” says Andrew.
 
“For adults who live with a severe hearing disability, this is their life every day. This announcement changes all of that for them. Finally, they will be able to reclaim their lives and enjoy the benefits of this treatment.”
 
SCIP General Manager Neil Heslop says, “After years of continued calls for increased funding to address the growing backlog and demand for adult cochlear implants, we can finally tell our patients that we can restore their hearing.
 
“Today’s announcement means X adults on our waiting list, who were not born deaf, can finally return to work, hear their children, and be confident in leaving the house and communicating with people. 
 
“Access to a cochlear implant will give them their lives back.”
 
Until now, just 40 adults nationally have received government funding for a cochlear implant every year. This base figure hasn’t changed for more than six years, and is no longer adequate. 
 
There are currently 200 adults on the waiting list. With 200 new referrals each year this number will increase significantly.
 
Working closely with the Southern Cochlear Implant Program, both NCIP and SCIP have had numerous meetings with the Ministry and provided in-depth briefings to Minister’s highlighting the urgent need to increase funding from 40 adult implants a year to 120.
 
Auckland teacher Mark Newman knows only too well the impact of strict and limited public funding. In 2017 his hearing loss deteriorated to the point he could no longer hear his students. Although Mark clinically met the criteria for a publicly-funded implant, he faced years on the waiting list.
 
“I was terrified I would lose my job, so I decided to fundraise for a cochlear implant through Facebook and Givealittle,” says Andrew. “I managed to raise enough money to get my first implant in December 2017, then in December 2019, I took out a loan through a finance company for my second one. If I had not funded my implants I would have lost my career. 
 
“I am just so elated and relieved to hear that this well overdue funding increase is finally here. This has been the result of the tireless work of many people, professionals, researchers and patients included. This decision will be life-changing for many New Zealanders living with disabling hearing loss”
 
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THE FACTS ON COCHLEAR IMPLANTS
 
A cochlear implant is a surgically-implanted electronic device that restores hearing for those with profound hearing loss.
 
Until now, just 40 adults nationally have received government funding for a cochlear implant every year. Today, there are nearly 200 eligible adults on the waitlist, and with 200 new referrals each year, this number will increase significantly. 
 
Cochlear implants in New Zealand are not covered by health insurance. 
 
Five referrals are received for every funded adult cochlear implant, and only 20 percent of patients are in a position to self-fund.
 
Most people on the waiting list were not born deaf – they lost their hearing as adults. The onset of total and permanent deafness can happen to anyone at any point.
 
Hearing aids become ineffective when the hearing loss is more than severe. Communication through spoken language becomes impossible. A cochlear implant is the last and only viable treatment that will restore hearing.
 
Government funding for children is currently meeting demand.
 
About the Pindrop Foundation, Nothern Cochlear Implant Programme (NCIP) and the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP)
 
The Pindrop Foundation is a New Zealand charity supporting severely hearing impaired adults into a hearing world through cochlear implant technology and services.
 
NCIP and SCIP are the only two cochlear implant providers in New Zealand. Both charities are funded by the Ministry of Health to provide public cochlear implant services to children and adults. 
 
NCIP cares for adult and paediatric patients north of Taupo, while SCIP cares for patients south of Taupo. 
 
NCIP and SCIP perform all cochlear implant assessments, arrange surgery, activate the cochlear implant, administer adjustments and provide post-implant rehabilitation services.
 
Enquiries:
Pindrop Foundation: Nic Russell | nic@pindrop.org.nz | 027 345 2514 
SCIP: Katie Katie Moore | Convergence Communications | katie@conv.co.nz | 022 0922 573