‘Additional cochlear implants best done before the age of 3’

Lee Han-soo  Published 2018.05.10  15:31  Updated 2018.05.10 17:47

Professors Jung Jong-woo (left) and Professor Park Hong-ju

Researchers at Asan Medical Center (AMC) have discovered that an earlier operation of an additional cochlear implant can increase its effects, the hospital said Wednesday.

Children with a congenital hearing loss, which means that they cannot hear anything from birth, conventionally undergo a cochlear implant operation within a year of their birth. Doctors perform the surgery at an early age so that the patients can quickly develop a central auditory system before it’s too late.

In most cases of congenital hearing loss, the vestibulocochlear nerve is still active. Therefore, by stimulating the central auditory system with electrical stimulation can help patients recover their hearing.

In recent years, to maximize language cognitive abilities, there has been an increase in the number of cases where the patients undergo additional cochlear implant surgeries. However, until now there have been no researches on when the operation will have the best results.

The research team, led by Professors Jung Jong-woo and Park Hong-ju from the department of otorhinolaryngology at the hospital, analyzed 73 children, who had undergone cochlear implant surgery in both ears, had no ear deformity and conducted hearing tests for four years or more from 1995 to 2016.

The team found that patients, who had finished cochlear implant surgery in both ears before the age of 3.5, showed a 96.9 percent language cognitive ability.

The team also found that patients who had undergone their first cochlear implant before the age of 7 years and had an additional cochlear implant surgery before the age of 13 years, showed a linguistic cognitive ability of 80 percent.

The result showed that even if the patient has their second operation at an older age, it can still be successful.

In Korea, cochlear implant has had insurance coverage since 2005, while cochlear implant in both ears received insurance coverage in 2009. In 2017, the age applicable to undergo surgery also increased from 15 to 19 providing benefits to a broader patient population.

“The results of this study can be used as a reference for predicting the postoperative outcome in a large number of patients who will receive a second cochlear implant,” Professor Jung said. “We urge patients who had undergone surgeries in one ear to undergo additional surgery as soon as possible as successful outcomes are more likely if the additional operation happens before the age of 13.”

Professor Park added that patients older than 20, who had not yet undergone additional cochlear implant surgery, to have the surgery.

“This study is significant as it is the largest study done at a single hospital,” Park said. “Although late, we have seen a successful operation for a patient who was more than 20 years old. Therefore we recommend older patients not to be discouraged about being late and actively undergo the hearing rehabilitation surgery.”

Otology & Neurotology published the results of the study.

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