To evaluate the potential significance of social distancing and quarantine precautions for COVID-19 on speech outcomes, missed appointments, wear time, and exposure to various sound environments in the first 6 months following activation for elderly cochlear implant (CI) recipients.
Tertiary private practice.
Fifty cochlear implant recipients ≥65 years were evaluated. A Control Group consisted of 26 patients implanted between November 2, 2018 and February 18, 2019 while the Pandemic Group included 24 patients implanted between November 1, 2019 and February 17, 2020.
Main Outcome Measures:
Preoperative and 6-month postoperative AzBio sentence scores in quiet were compared between groups along with the number of missed appointments as well as datalogged information regarding average CI wear time and average hours in various sound environments such as quiet, speech, and speech-in-noise.
The Control Group averaged 36.5% improvement for AzBio in quiet scores while the Pandemic Group averaged only 17.2% improvement, a difference that was both statistically and clinically significant (p = 0.04; g = 0.64). Patients in the Pandemic Group were nearly twice as likely to miss CI programming appointments than the Control Group. The Pandemic Group wore their CI 1.2 less hours per day on average, and while the Pandemic Group spent similar times in quiet and speech environments to the Control Group, the Pandemic Group spent less time in speech with presence of background noise.
While social distancing and quarantine measures are crucial to limiting spread of COVID-19, these precautions may have negatively impacted early speech performance for elderly cochlear implant recipients. Missed CI programming appointments, decreased sound processor wear time, and reduced exposure to complex listening environments such as speech in the presence of background noise were more common in the Pandemic Group than in the Control Group operated the year prior.