The Sound of Feeling Better

Cochlear implants improve speech perception and quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

(RxWiki News) Cochlear implants are an appealing option to many adults with hearing loss. New research suggests that the implants might provide patients with more than just improved hearing.

A recent study looked at how well adults with cochlear implants could do on certain hearing tests and how they described life changes since getting the implants.

Researchers reviewed 42 previous studies that asked adults with hearing loss to complete various tests measuring their abilities to understand speech and rate their quality of life.

The data suggested that adults with at least one cochlear implant experienced improved understanding of speech and increased hearing-related quality of life. Two implants improved speech perception even further, the research showed.

"Consult your physician if you have trouble hearing."

James M. Gaylor, BA, of the Tufts Evidence-Based Practice Center at the Tufts Medical Center, and colleagues led the study to find out what adults with hearing loss experienced after getting a cochlear implant.

The cochlear implant is a small electronic device that gets surgically inserted in the ear. The implant helps people with severe hearing loss and deafness detect sound.

To carry out their research, the researchers reviewed 42 already-published studies on adults with hearing loss who had surgery to insert either one or two cochlear implants.   

The previous studies included sentence comprehension tests, word tests with multiple syllables or quality of life measures. Participants in these studies could also use hearing aids.

A total of 16 studies measured how well the participants could communicate in various ways after getting one cochlear implant.

In 11 of those 16 studies, the participants’ average speech scores significantly improved after getting a cochlear implant. The five remaining studies reported a smaller benefit.

A total of 15 studies looked at how participants with two cochlear implants were able to communicate on certain tests.

In 13 of those studies, the participants’ communication scores significantly improved when both of the implants were turned on compared to the scores when only one implant was turned on.

In 14 of the studies, participants with two cochlear implants did significantly better at locating the source of a sound in a quiet room compared to those with only one implant.

The researchers also looked at differences in how the participants rated their quality of life after getting cochlear implants.

General quality of life scores improved by an average of 1.05 points in the nine studies that tested this measure.

Patients’ quality of life related to their cochlear implants improved by an average of 1.71 points after the surgery, according to the five studies that included this measure.

Participants also had an average 1.24-point improvement in their hearing-specific quality of life scores.

“In summary, unilateral cochlear implantation with or without the additional use of hearing aids was an effective method for improving speech perception and health-related quality of life in adults with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss in the studies assessed within this review,” the authors wrote.

“Compared with unilateral implantation, bilateral cochlear implantation provided added improvements in speech perception,” the authors concluded.

The study was published on February 21 in the journal JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery.

The research was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The authors reported no potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 25, 2013
Last Updated:
February 27, 2013