To live a full, active and independent life is something we all strive for. However, this is not the reality for many severely hearing impaired adults living in New Zealand. Severe hearing loss impacts an individual’s ability to be financially and socially independent, increases feelings of loneliness, isolation, and gives rise to an increased risk of depression, cognitive decline and poorer health outcomes. While research has highlighted the economic and quality of life gains of cochlear implants as a hearing solution for severely hearing impaired adults and children, limited public health resources have been made available for this form of hearing solution.
At the Pindrop Fundation, we have found the optimal outcomes for severely hearing impaired adults in New Zealand occur when their hearing is restored and they can participate fully in family and community life again. Early hearing restoration mitigates many of the negative societal and health outcomes for individuals through facilitating their longevity in the workforce, ensuring social participation, personal relationships and quality of life, while reducing dependency on additional health and welfare supports. As the world population ages, the incidence of severe hearing loss is increasing, with hearing loss accounting for the leading cause of disability and the greatest loss of healthy years and functionality in the older population. Gloablly, governments have been looking toward meeting the needs of their aging populations. Sentiment has been focused on keeping individuals as independent for as long as is possible and reducing the incidence of long term dependency.
This paper looks specifically at the growing issue of severe hearing loss and how early cochlear implantation can facilitate an individual’s independence within society, while reducing the risk of long term dependency on health and welfare systems. The paper incorporates findings from the Global Health Policy summit into aging societies, international research into hearing loss and the National Institute of Clinical Excellence recommendations for Cochlear implants as a hearing solution for severely hearing impaired individuals. When it comes to considering the provision of early hearing restoration through cochlear implants, such as the financial investment required, this paper describes the economic, societal and health gains of cochlear implants for severely hearing impaired adults and offers suggestions for equitable, effective and sustainable funding.
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