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Researchers call for big data to drive healthy ageing in cochlear implant recipients

New information published by researchers highlights the need for ‘big data’ to further investigate the health and social outcomes for adult cochlear implant recipients.
Side view of a man with a cochlear implant, in a therapy room.
  • Hearing

Just as we plan for ageing generally, Australia needs to plan for how older cochlear implant recipients access health services, so they can remain socially connected and healthy as they age, researchers say.

New information published by researchers from Macquarie University, the University of Sydney and NextSense highlights the need for ‘big data’ to further investigate the health and social outcomes for adult cochlear implant (CI) recipients.

A study currently in progress is the first to use national population-based data to explore how adults with a CI interact with the medical system and how CI-use impacts social outcomes.

The opening literature review, ‘Cochlear implantation impact on health service utilisation and social outcomes: a systematic review’ revealed that several studies have measured hearing outcomes in adult CI users but the potential impact of CI on health service use and social outcomes is less understood.

The systematic review synthesised international evidence from 44 studies and found there were gaps in the information available on how those with cochlear implants use the health system after they have had their surgery.

Dr Robyn Cantle Moore, a researcher and Conjoint Lecturer, Macquarie University and NextSense Institute is a co-author on the review, led by the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Macquarie University.

She says there is more exploration and data analysis needed to find out not only how adult cochlear implant recipients use and are supported by the health system, but also how their social involvement is enhanced by having a cochlear implant.

‘For instance, we don’t know how many hospital presentations cochlear implant recipients have, or what the presentations are for. Do the medical professionals understand the needs of aging cochlear implant recipients?’ Dr Cantle Moore says.

Without exploring big data sets, we will never know the answers.

— Dr Robyn Cantle Moore, NextSense Institute

The recent paper published in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Health Services Research, says a longer-term view is needed to better understand whether CI recipients use medical systems differently as they get older, and how it impacts on their lives.

It also says integrated approaches that tackle barriers and social outcomes could mitigate negative experiences for CI users who are accessing health services such as hospital surgeries, emergency department care, GP visits, CI revision surgery and pharmaceutical use. Social outcomes can include education, autonomy, social participation, training, disability, social housing, social welfare benefits, occupation, employment, income level, anxiety, depression, quality of life (QoL), communication and cognition.

This review identified the benefit cochlear implants have in improving adults’ social interactions and working lives, but it concluded that a large-scale, well-designed epidemiological study was needed to examine health and social outcomes post-CI to ensure better access to medical care for older CI recipients.

NextSense has a leading research team dedicated to breaking new ground in the field of vision and hearing. Our many affiliations with research organisations and our academic projects are specialised for sensory disability.

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