Editor's Message: Cochlear Implants Go Mainstream

As over-the-counter (OTC) hearing aids and their intended users—adults with mild-to-moderate hearing loss—continue to generate headlines, the underutilization of cochlear implants remains largely overlooked. Reports indicate that just under 8% of adults with severe-to-profound hearing loss have received a cochlear implant (CI), a technology with proven outcomes for those meeting candidacy requirements.

This issue of Audiology Practices takes a deep dive into cochlear implants. Historically confined to medical centers with otologists and audiologists that specialize in cochlear implants, modern advances in CI fitting software and hardware now enable audiologists, outside the confines of the multispecialty medical center, to get directly involved in the care of individuals with severe-to-profound hearing loss.

The timing could not be better. The rise of OTC devices, Medicare Advantage programs and big-box retail are beginning to force a growing number of audiologists to unbundle their fees for services from the provision of hearing aids. One strategy, for overcoming the effects of these changes in the marketplace, is diversification of clinical services. Providing services to cochlear implant recipients as part of a larger network of private practice audiologists, in areas of the country where cochlear implant recipients are under-served, is one way to diversify and provide a much-needed service.

This issue of Audiology Practices provides an overview of why and how audiologists, who do not specialize in CI, can still play a vital role in the care and management of CI recipients, and generate revenue by providing a valuable service.

The first article examines several of the common myths associated with CI in the clinic and how rank and file audiologists can improve the uptake of CI in adults by getting directly involved in the provision of cochlear implants within their own clinic, even if there isn’t a surgeon on site. The second article, co-authored by a CI surgeon, delves deeper into the patient journey and current CI candidacy requirements. The third article, authored by an audiologist with more than 30 years of CI experience, provides readers with important insights on issues related to counseling patients interested in transitioning from hearing aids to cochlear implants.

Two audiologists, who specialize in CI research, contribute to the fourth article in this issue. Their focus is on the evolution of hybrid cochlear implants and their updated candidacy requirements. Finally, we round out this special issue of Audiology Practices by discussing rehabilitation considerations with Dr. Jane Madell , professor at New York Medical College and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Drs. Brent Spehar and Nancy Tye-Murray of Washington University in St Louis.

It’s also worth mentioning that even though some of the authors in this issue are employed by one CI manufacturer, Cochlear Americas, there are two other CI manufacturers, Advanced Bionics and Med-El, that are used extensively at CI centers around the globe. All three CI manufacturers are commonly recommended, implanted and mapped by our article contributors who work in the clinic. It is important to note that the Academy of Doctors of Audiology and Audiology Practices does not exclusively endorse one CI manufacturer over another.