With over 200 New Zealand adults currently on the waiting list for a cochlear implant, on Saturday 2nd of November the Pindrop Foundation Cochlear Implant Forum is bringing together global and national experts on hearing loss at the University of Auckland to discuss this growing health and social issue.

Visiting Professor, Frank Lin, M.D, PhD., director of the Cochlear Center for Hearing and Public Health and a Professor of Otolaryngology, Medicine, Mental Health, and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University whose groundbreaking research found a link between dementia and hearing loss, will be discussing what can be done to integrate strategies for hearing care into health care systems enabling greater access to hearing and communication technologies.

Professor Lin says, “The growing population of older people around the world represents a daunting health challenge. Addressing hearing loss which affects nearly two-thirds of older adults may be a path to helping mitigate cognitive decline and optimizing the health and functioning of seniors.”

Fellow researcher, Dr. Sue Archbold who is visiting from the UK, endorses his views. Sue’s work into access and benefits of cochlear implants for adults was instrumental in getting the access criteria reviewed and lowered by NICE (National Institute of Clinical Excellence) in the UK, opening up access to potentially 70% more adults.

“Our work showed that cochlear implants benefitted people with lower levels of hearing loss yet many people had to wait for their hearing to get worse before they could access this transformative intervention. We collaborated with patient groups, charities and government seeking change so that more people could access cochlear implants before their lives fell apart, and these changes will enable many more to enjoy the life-changing benefits this intervention affords.”

One New Zealander who wasn’t prepared for his life to fall apart before getting his cochlear implant was 70 yr old farmer, Richard Milne, “My hearing was at a point where hearing aids did not give any useful hearing, but because of the capped funding for a publicly funded cochlear implant, my life

was on hold. I didn’t want to wait for my health to get worse, and we wanted to move into town…so I needed my hearing to build new social networks, so I paid for mine. Others aren’t so lucky.”

Incensed by the inequity of access to cochlear implants for adults, recent CI recipient, Lewis Williams has launched a petition calling on the government to increase the funding of cochlear implants for adults.

Lewis says “We have one of the most stringent assessment and access criteria for cochlear implants and fund only 40 adults a year, with the restrictive funding meaning many people meet criteria but are denied access.

“I believe this is in breech of our obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Person’s with Disabilities which states: Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimise and prevent further disabilities,” says Lewis.

Professor Frank Lin, Sue Archbold, Richard Milne and Lewis Williams will be speaking at The Pindrop Foundation’s Cochlear Implant Forum, the largest forum for the adult cochlear implant community in New Zealand, with leading academics, surgeons, health professionals and cochlear implant users.

When: Saturday 2nd November from 9.00am-6.00pm

Where: University of Auckland, Tamaki Campus, Morrin Rd, St John.

Speaker information and Registration: www.pindrop.org.nz

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