Cochlear implantation (CI) is an underutilized treatment for hearing loss in the United States for reasons which remain unclear. This study explores self-identified barriers to CI employing a survey of adults who qualified for CI.
A single-institutional review of CI candidates between December 2010 and December 2018 was performed to identify patients who did not pursue surgery. A 21-question survey was developed, aimed at rating patients’ concerns regarding CI, including surgical risks, adaptation, costs, time commitment, loss of residual hearing, and lack of benefit, among others. Current hearing aid usage and familiarity with other CI users were also analyzed. The survey was administered to patients who did not pursue CI and a control group who eventually did pursue CI, via email or telephone.
There were 199 patients who initially did not pursue CI. Fifty-two survey responses were received, comprised of 27 patients who did not pursue CI and 25 patients who did. A belief that CI would not significantly improve the ability to communicate was the most common reported barrier, followed by the postoperative recovery process, risks of surgery, and risks of losing music appreciation. Anesthetic risk and cost were the least important reasons not to pursue CI. Half of patients reported concerns regarding the period of adjustment with the CI.
The decision not to pursue CI despite eligibility is multifactorial and includes concern for minimal hearing benefit and perioperative risks. These factors should be taken into consideration when counseling patients on CI surgery.