Cochlear Implant Surgery Is Safe

Photo: Older woman's ear

Even older people can undergo
cochlear implantation; © SXC

“Due to concerns about the effects of general anesthesia, many elderly people with hearing loss are not receiving the implants which can significantly improve their hearing and quality of life,” according to Anil Lalwani, M.D., Mendik Foundation Professor of Otolaryngology and Chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology at NYU School of Medicine and a study co-author.

“The elderly are often incorrectly considered too fragile for this life transforming technology that can deliver them from a world of silence and loneliness to a world of hearing and engagement,” says Dr. Lalwani.

The National Institute on Aging estimates that 30 percent of Americans between ages 65 and 74 have hearing difficulty – and that number increases to 50 percent in people 85 and older. In about 10 percent of the elderly, the impairment is so severe that conventional hearing aids provide little benefit. The inability to communicate interferes greatly with daily living and can lead to cognitive impairment, personality changes, depression, reduced functional status and social isolation.

The researchers conducted a retrospective chart review of 70 patients over 70 years of age who received cochlear implants under general anaesthesia at NYU Langone Medical Center between 1984 and 2007. The patients were divided into risk groups and intraoperative and postoperative anaesthesia-related complications were identified. Most patients tolerated the procedure and there was no long-term morbidity or mortality related to the surgery or anaesthesia.

The researchers concluded that general anaesthesia is well tolerated by elderly patients undergoing cochlear implantation. Any pre-existing medical condition is a better predictor of intraoperative and postoperative complication than age alone, they observed.; Source: NY University Langone Medical Center