More people to benefit from life changing cochlear implants

March 2019

UK, 07 March 2019: Many more people across England and Wales with hearing loss will now be able to access the benefits of a cochlear implant.

This follows the announcement from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) that it will expand the criteria that health professionals use when determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant within the NHS.

The British Academy of Audiology (BAA), the British Society of Audiology (BSA), the British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG), and Cochlear, the global leader in implantable hearing solutions, have joined together to welcome the news as a positive change following concerted campaigning from the hearing care community and healthcare professionals.

Details can be found:

  • For the purposes of this guidance: severe to profound deafness is defined as hearing only sounds that are equal or louder than 80 dB HL without acoustic hearing aids
  • Testing assessment for adults: a phoneme score of 50% or less (Arthur Boothroyd word test)

Mr Richard Irving, Consultant ENT Surgeon, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust adds, ”It has long been felt that the UK has the most conservative criteria for determining who is eligible for a cochlear implant – meaning a significant portion of the population that could benefit from the device have been unable to access it. The UK has been out of step with other countries with more relaxed criteria such as Japan, Germany, Italy, Ireland and Australia, where healthcare professionals have more flexibility. There has been growing concern that people could unnecessarily be suffering negative emotional and physical consequences from hearing loss and — for those for whom this is an appropriate solution — missing out on a short surgical procedure could have a major impact on their quality of life.”

In a report published in 2014, the King’s Fund1 said that adequately addressing hearing loss can improve an individual’s independence, well-being and social engagement. Fewer than 7% of adults who could benefit from a cochlear implant actually have one.

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.2

Stuart Thomas, General Manager, U.K. Ireland & South Africa, Cochlear Europe Ltd, says, “We are committed to improving the lives of people living with hearing loss through extensive research, development and constant innovation. Therefore, this announcement is very positive and welcomed news. We want as many people as possible to benefit from this change, so that more people can reach their potential and lead full and connected lives.”

Sue Falkingham, President of the British Academy of Audiology, says: “It is vital that people with hearing loss can access a full range of treatments and are able to make an informed choice about what is right for them. For many people hearing aids are the best option; but for the right people a cochlear implant is more appropriate.”

Elizabeth Midgley from the British Society of Audiology, says: “This change will mean more children and adults will benefit from this amazing technology. The priority now is to educate and support healthcare professionals in identifying who are the right people to put forward. These implants can greatly improve people’s lives.”

Tracey Twomey, Chair of the British Cochlear Implant Group and a Consultant Clinical Scientist (Audiology) says: “This is a fabulous development and so good for our patients. For too long we have had to turn people away who may have benefited from an implant because they didn’t fit the previous NICE criteria.” 

Mr David Selvadurai, Consultant Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon at St George’s Hospital, London, says: “I see people every week that 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,” Mr Selvadurai continued. “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.”

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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.

Note to editors
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
The British Academy of Audiology (BAA)

The BAA is the largest association of professionals in hearing and balance in the UK. Its membership extends internationally and provides services in both the public and private sector. The BAA aims to help its members to develop in their professional skills, provides a benchmark for quality and professional standards and promotes audiology as an autonomous profession.

The British Society of Audiology (BSA)

The British Society of Audiology (BSA) was formed in 1967. It is a multi-professional body and aims are to advance audiological research, learning, practice and impact. The vision of the BSA is building knowledge and empowering.

The British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG)

The British Cochlear Implant Group (BCIG) works for the public benefit to advance awareness, knowledge and best practice in the field of hearing implantation. BCIG contributes to and promotes cochlear implant research and provides information to the public in order to improve the hearing, communication and quality of life of people with hearing impairment and their families.


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

2 Hearing Matters 2015, Action on Hearing Loss

Media enquiries

Laura Hawkins
Consumer Campaign Manager

The State of Hearing Report

March 2019