Cochlear implantation in early-deafened patients, implanted as adolescents or adults, is not always advised due to poor expected outcomes. In order to judge whether such reluctance is justified, the current systematic review aimed to gather all available evidence on postoperative outcomes obtained by early-deafened patients using a state-of-the art cochlear implant (CI).
Five electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, the Cochrane library, CINAHL, and PsycInfo) were systematically searched for studies in English, French, German, or Dutch, published between 2000 and September 2017. Studies that reported pre- and postoperative outcomes on any measure of speech or sound perception, audiovisual or subjective benefit (quality of life) were included. Study quality was assessed with the Institute of Health Economics quality appraisal tool for case series studies.
The systematic search and subsequent full-text evaluation identified 38 studies meeting the inclusion criteria. Only a limited number of studies were judged to be of high quality according to the Institute of Health Economics tool, with lack of (clear) presentation of relevant study information being a recurring problem. Twenty-five studies presented viable outcomes on open-set speech understanding in quiet: mean postoperative scores obtained with CI remained below 50% for the vast majority of studies; significant postoperative improvements were found in 16 studies, although this number might have been higher if appropriate statistical testing had been performed in all studies. Eight studies observed increased audiovisual performance after implantation, which was statistically significant in six studies. A validated measure of hearing-related quality of life was used in only 5 of the 16 studies assessing subjective outcomes, showing significant postoperative improvements for most questionnaire domains. The relation between auditory and subjective outcomes was assessed in two studies, with contradictory results.
The current review showed that late cochlear implantation in early-deafened subjects resulted in significantly improved open-set speech perception, audiovisual speech perception, and (hearing-related) quality of life in the majority of the studies involved. Nonetheless, more and especially higher-quality research is needed in order to gain a more detailed understanding of the outcomes of cochlear implantation in this population.