More people are eligible for cochlear implants with NICE guidance

More people will be eligible for cochlear implants

Hundreds more people with severe to profound deafness will be eligible for cochlear implants each year, due to updated final NICE guidance published today.

The update comes after a review of the definition of severe to profound deafness which is used to identify if a cochlear implant might be appropriate.

Severe to profound deafness is now recognised as only hearing sounds louder than 80dB HL at 2 or more frequencies without hearing aids. Previously it was defined as only hearing sounds louder than 90dB HL.

As previously, cochlear implants should only be considered in those who do not receive adequate benefit from acoustic hearing aids. The hearing test that should be used to assess this in adults has also been updated.

It’s estimated that currently around 1,260 people in England receive cochlear implants each year. These updated recommendations could lead to a 70% increase in that number, to 2,150 people, once a steady state is reached in 2024/25.

The annual cost associated with implementing this guidance is anticipated to be around £5.5m, £17.3m, £28.6m, £39.8m and £50.8m for years 1-5. From year 6 (2024/25) onwards the annual cost is around £30 million.

Although the implementation of the new recommendations would meet the budget impact test in year 3, NHS England has decided not to engage in commercial discussions with the companies. As such commissioners have three months from today to implement these recommendations.

The total cost of a cochlear implant for one ear including the surgery is £22,919 and for two ears is £37,904.

Meindert Boysen, Director of the Centre for Technology Evaluation, said: “The appraisal committee listened to stakeholder concerns regarding the eligibility criteria for cochlear implants being out of date. Upon review it was concluded this needed to be updated.

“The new eligibility criteria for cochlear implants will ensure that they continue to be available on the NHS to those individuals who will benefit from them the most.”

Vicki Kirwin, a children’s audiologist at the National Deaf Children’s Society, said: “Cochlear Implants can have an incredible impact on the lives of thousands of deaf children. With this updated guidance, Britain will go from having some of the strictest criteria in the developed world for accessing cochlear implants to being at the forefront of giving this technology to deaf children.

“With the right support, deaf children can achieve anything in life. Today’s announcement means NICE is going a long way towards making that promise a reality for all those children who can benefit from this technology.”