Cochlear implants are now recognised worldwide as providing significant benefit and improvement in quality of life for people with a severe to profound hearing loss. However, in many places the waiting time can be as long as seven years. This is caused by a number of factors such as funding by government health services (Medicare in Australia) is for only a limited number of patients. Most health funds (in Australia) now cover the procedure but many potential recipients donít have private Health Insurance.
Recently I was told the waiting in New Zealand for an adult could be as long as seven years. In South Australia only around 10 cochlear implants are funded each year for adults and around 30 are performed until private health insurance.
In Queensland the waiting list has 120 adults and 22 children on it. Up until now government health funding has only been available for 28 people each year, but today, Queensland Health has been given a $7.8 million allocation to clear this back-log during 2013/2014. The idea is to clear the list and then be ahead for the next year when a further 65 people are likely to need a Cochlear Implant.
I heard from someone in Queensland who told me they have friends who were waiting and would be pleased their wait would be now so much shorter.
With 13% of the Australian population having a hearing loss, there would seem to be many people who could benefit from a Cochlear Implant. Waiting is difficult. During the waiting time, your hearing still deteriorates and it becomes harder and harder to cope.
As hearing gets worse, it is harder to cope with even everyday situations. Often people have to drop out of their chosen career because they canít hear well enough to continue and take up other, often less paid, forms of work. If they lose their job, itís almost impossible to get another one when you canít hear on the phone or easily understand questions at an interview.
I started investigating a Cochlear Implant in 1995 - I was a long way down on the list and it wasnít until 2002 that my turn came up. During these years my self esteem and confidence dropped to an all time low. This could have been avoided had the funds been available earlier for me to have my implant.