The number of people in Nottingham who could have their lives transformed by cochlear implants each year is set to increase due to a change in national health guidelines, announced this week.
The new changes by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) mean that potentially hundreds more severe and profoundly deaf people will meet the criteria for cochlear implants across the UK.
Tracey Twomey, Consultant Clinical Scientist at Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme, at Nottingham University Hospitals said: “Hearing loss has a very serious impact on people’s quality of life. Cochlear implants can transform people’s lives when hearing aids aren’t enough. Whether it’s young children understanding speech and learning to talk or adults reconnecting with family, friends and the world around them after losing their hearing, this amazing technology can make such a difference. The UK has had some of the strictest criteria in the world until now and this will bring us back in line with other countries.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device which is implanted under the skin behind the ear and down into the inner ear, or cochlea. It works together with the sound processor which is worn externally on the ear and, whilst the processor looks rather like a hearing aid, the whole system works very differently because it bypasses the part of the ear that isn’t working, in order to provide sound.
Joe Norwak, from Newark had a cochlear implant at NUH three years ago. He said: “I had no problems with my hearing until I was 18 years old when I was diagnosed with Wegener’s granulomatosis, which eventually caused me to lose my hearing completely. I felt isolated, withdrawn and lonely. I didn’t have the confidence to go out and enjoy myself or do other things in life.”
Tracey added: “Cochlear implant surgery takes about one and a half hours and most people go home the same day. Around four weeks later, the sound processor is fitted and the person can begin to hear with the implant.”
Joe, 28-years old, added: “My mum came with me to have my implant switched on. She was asked to keep talking and suddenly the strange beeping turned into mum’s voice!
“I was really nervous about making the decision, but I wish I hadn’t hesitated. For me, it’s been life changing. I’ve changed career and am now training to be a chartered accountant. I can use the phone with friends and at work and I now have the chance to make so many new memories.”
The Nottingham Auditory Implant Programme(NAIP) at NUH has been running since 1989 and is based at Ropewalk House. This year the team are celebrating 30 years since the service first opened its doors to patients.
Tracey said: “We are very proud of our service and the care we deliver to patients. We are a regional centre and in our lifetime we have provided cochlear implants for more than 2000 cochlear implants across the East Midlands and beyond. With the relaxation of these guidelines we will be able to help many more people.”