Calls to increase funding for cochlear implants as hundreds wait for surgery in New Zealand

A story from New Zealand Stuff Magazine about a campaign to increase Cochlear Implant funding: nearly 200 New Zealanders currently meet Ministry of Health criteria for Cochlear Implant surgery. However, waiting lists are overburdened due to inadequate funding.

Editor comment

Adults in New Zealand sometimes have to wait up to four years for a Cochlear Implant unless they pay 50,000 (New Zealand Dollars) which is the equivalent to 33,000 (USD) to jump the queues. This story struck a chord with us as it's clear that change is needed. The number of people eligible for the funded procedure each year had not changed in more than five years.

It's also a story which is relevant to our Cochlear Implant Costs article, which looks at the steps you need to take if you are to fund a Cochlear Implant yourself.

Laura’s story

Working as a nurse in a busy mental health unit, Laura Williams needs to be able to hear what's going on around her at all times – something the profoundly deaf woman can do thanks to cochlear implants. 

The 27-year-old is one of about 40 New Zealanders who receive a funded cochlear implant each year.

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New Zealand’s current Cochlear Implant setup

Nearly 200 New Zealanders currently meet Ministry of Health criteria for cochlear implant surgery, but most will likely never hear again – unless the government increases funding, experts say.

Neil Heslop, the general manager of the Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, said the number of people eligible for the funded procedure each year had not changed in more than five years. 

It was "now inadequate" and did not take into account increasing demand or wait times, he said. 

The Southern Cochlear Implant Programme, one of two cochlear implant providers nationwide, looks after adult and paediatric patients south of Taupō. 

It receives five referrals for every funded adult cochlear implant. If things kept going at the current rate, there could be 500 adults waiting for an implant within four years, Heslop said.

Heslop and SCIP were calling on the Health Minister to increase the annual number of adult procedures from 40 to 120 in Budget 2019, to address the most urgent cases. 

Unlike other surgical procedures, cochlear implants are not covered by health insurance. 

The devices and operation cost about $50,000. The speech processors need replacing every seven years, to the tune of about $10,000. 

"For adults, as well as children, cochlear implants restore hearing and completely change lives," Heslop said. 

Read the full article here:

If you like this article, you might like… What is a Cochlear Implant? This overview includes simple factual and video information.

If you like this article, you might like... The Cochlear Implant Animator. A fascinating interview with Animator and Director, Eric Giessmann, who talks about his path to success, losing his hearing and what inspired him to create the ‘Ciborg/Cochlear Implant animation.'

If you like this article, you might like… My rescue from isolation. A story about hearing loss and bouncing back with a Cochlear Implant.

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