Landmark NICE guidance change means more people will benefit from life-changing cochlear implants

March 2019

Expansion of eligibility criteria means many more children and adults across the UK will have access to a cochlear implant, as global survey finds an awareness-action gap in the UK in relation to hearing loss.

United Kingdom, 7 March 2019 (00.01am): Many more people across England and Wales with hearing loss will be able to access the life-changing benefits of a cochlear implant. This is the result of a decision by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) to expand the criteria used when determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant within the NHS.

The threshold for eligibility has been reduced to equal or greater than 80 dB HL (decibels hearing loss) at two or more frequencies without the use of hearing aids, down from 90 dB HL for children and adults with severe to profound hearing loss. 80 dB is equivalent to an alarm clock.

This important change follows concerted campaigning from the hearing care community, healthcare professionals, Cochlear and key groups including the British Academy of Audiology (BAA), the British Society of Audiology (BSA) and the British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG).

Against the backdrop of these guidance changes, a global survey by Cochlear Ltd to assess the impact and understand attitudes to hearing loss highlights people in the UK are least likely of any country surveyed to have had a hearing test in the last two years.1

Cochlear’s 2019 State of Hearing Report reveals 96% of adults in the UK think hearing is important to their overall quality of life, yet more than 7 in 10 (71%) of people who believe they have hearing loss have not had their hearing checked.

Stuart Thomas, General Manager, U.K. Ireland & South Africa, Cochlear, says, “Most hearing loss is treatable and some is preventable, but it’s not prioritised in the same way as other health conditions. We are committed to improving the lives of people living with hearing loss through extensive research, development and constant innovation. We want as many people as possible to benefit from this criteria change, so that more people can reach their potential and lead full and connected lives.”

The State of Hearing Report, which surveyed 2,248 people across the UK, highlights that untreated hearing loss is having a detrimental impact upon relationships. 46% of the UK population surveyed have a close family member who suffers from moderate through to profound hearing loss, with 86% stating it impacts their family member’s ability to communicate.

As a result, 62% of people in the UK believe that hearing loss can result in withdrawal and isolation from society.

At the same time, 7 in 10 of those surveyed believe hearing loss is an inevitable part of aging, causing delays in prevention, monitoring and treatment, and leading to people living a poorer quality of life. Cochlear’s State of Hearing 2019 report outlines a clear need for people to take action to address preventable and treatable hearing loss.

Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon, Mr David Selvadurai, of St George’s Hospital, London, says: “I see people every week who could benefit from a cochlear implant but have been outside of the previous NICE guidance. These individuals can now have a simple surgical procedure that is genuinely life changing.”

“Many people don’t seem to be aware how much better they could be with a cochlear implant, how safe and straightforward the surgery now is and the huge range of potential benefits they might enjoy. Cochlear implants allow adults to re-enter many social situations, feel safer in the outside world and for many, offer the possibility of talking to friends and family over the telephone. This change of criteria will make a real impact on the kind of care we can deliver to many of our patients.”

Cochlear and the World Health Organization are urging people around the world to treat their hearing as a vital health priority by having their hearing checked as a regular part of ongoing healthcare.

Dr Huw Cooper, Cochlear UK’s Implant Team Manager, says: “As the world’s population continues to live longer, preventing hearing loss, while maintaining and restoring hearing, will become imperative for general health and wellbeing. Getting a hearing test can be the first step in making sure people maintain their quality of life and continue to be part of society. Even if you are currently wearing hearing aids, regular check-ups are important as there are other options available.”

“Hearing loss is frequently dismissed as an inevitable part of aging, leading to delays in action and people living a poorer quality of life. Hearing loss is a significant health issue impacting our ability to have normal conversations with loved ones and friends. It impacts our ability to stay connected, healthy and productive.”

Today disabling hearing loss affects 466 million people around the world, with one in three people over the age of 65 living with severe to profound forms of the condition. World Health Organization figures predict the total number of people living with hearing loss will nearly double by 2050 and this increase will be most noticeable amongst older people.2

The full State of Hearing Report 2019 can be accessed here. Further information about Cochlear can be found here.

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Note to editors
About Cochlear Limited (ASX: COH)

Cochlear is the global leader in implantable hearing solutions. The company has a global workforce of more than 3,500 people and invests more than AUD$160 million a year in research and development. Products include hearing systems for cochlear implants, bone conduction implants and acoustic implants, which are designed to treat a range of moderate to profound types of hearing loss.

Since 1981, Cochlear has provided more than 550,000 implantable devices, helping recipients of all ages, in more than 100 countries, to hear and be heard.

About the revised NICE guidance

Further details can be found at:

About State of Hearing Report

The State of Hearing Report 2019 surveyed people in five countries in December 2018. This included Australia, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and United States of America to get a global perspective of how hearing affects individuals and communities. Some important trends emerged after speaking with more than 7,200 people, including more than 1,000 aged 60 years and older with hearing loss. In the UK, 2,248 people were surveyed.

About Hearing Loss

Hearing loss represents a significant global health burden with over five per cent of the world’s population – 460 million people – living with disabling hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 72 million people who could potentially benefit from the use of a hearing device including a cochlear implant or hearing aid.3

In a report published in 2014, the King’s Fund said that adequately addressing hearing loss can improve an individual’s independence, well-being and social engagement. Fewer than 5% of adults who could benefit from a cochlear implant actually have one.4

Action on Hearing Loss, a UK charity, has estimated that over 900,000 people in the UK have severe or profound hearing loss and that on average, people wait up to 10 years to seek help.5

What is a cochlear implant?
  • Cochlear implants are surgically implanted devices that help people to hear
  • Cochlear implants first gained regulatory approval in the 1980s
  • Some people have difficulty hearing because a part of their ear called the cochlea isn’t working properly
  • How a cochlear implant works
    • Microphones on the external sound processor pick up sounds, and the sound processor converts them into digital information
    • This information is transferred to the implant just under the skin
    • The implant sends the digital signals to electrodes in the cochlea
    • The hearing nerve fibres in the cochlea pick up the signals and send them to the brain, which is understood as sound
  • Anyone interested in finding out if they are a suitable candidate should speak to their audiology team, a health professional or go to


1 The State of Hearing Report 2019, conducted by Edelman Intelligence for Cochlear, December 2018

2 World Health Organization. Deafness & Hearing Loss Factsheet. Available at [Last accessed Feb 2019]

3 World Health Organization. Deafness and Hearing Loss Factsheet [Internet]. Updated February 2018 [Last Accessed February 2019] Available from:

4 The King’s Fund 2014, ‘Making our health and care systems fit for an aging population’ David Oliver, Catherine Foot, Richard Humphries

5 Hearing Matters 2015, Action on Hearing Loss


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March 2019