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Cochlear implant surgery safe for the elderly

Posted Mar 07 2009 3:46pm

A study by NYU Langone Medical Center researchers shows that healthy elderly patients with severe to profound hearing loss can undergo surgery to receive cochlear implants with minimal risk.

"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, Mendik Foundation Professor of Otolaryngology.

"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 new study is published in the February issue of the journal The Laryngoscope.

The National Institute on Aging estimates that 30% of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing difficulty and that number increases to 50 percent in people aged 85 and older. In about 10% 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 anesthesia between 1984 and 2007. The patients were divided into risk groups and intraoperative and postoperative anesthesia-related complications were identified. Most patients tolerated the procedure and there was no long-term morbidity or mortality related to the surgery or anesthesia.

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