Cochlear implantation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis

JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2013 Mar;139(3):265-72. doi: 10.1001/jamaoto.2013.1744.


Importance: Sensorineural hearing loss is the third leading cause of years lived with disability worldwide. Cochlear implants may provide a viable alternative to hearing aids for this type of hearing loss. The Coverage and Analysis Group at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was interested in an evaluation of recently published literature on this topic. In addition, this meta-analysis is to our knowledge the first to evaluate quality-of-life (QOL) outcomes in adults with cochlear implants.

Objective: To evaluate the communication-related outcomes and health-related QOL outcomes after unilateral or bilateral cochlear implantation in adults with sensorineural hearing loss.

Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Scopus, and previous reports from January 1, 2004, through May 31, 2012.

Study selection: Published studies of adult patients undergoing unilateral or bilateral procedures with multichannel cochlear implants and assessments using open-set sentence tests, multisyllable word tests, or QOL measures.

Data extraction: Five researchers extracted information on population characteristics, outcomes of interest, and study design and assessed the studies for risk of bias. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus.

Results: A total of 42 studies met the inclusion criteria. Most unilateral implant studies showed a statistically significant improvement in mean speech scores as measured by open-set sentence or multisyllable word tests; meta-analysis revealed a significant improvement in QOL after unilateral implantation. Results from studies assessing bilateral implantation showed improvement in communication-related outcomes compared with unilateral implantation and additional improvements in sound localization compared with unilateral device use or implantation only. Based on a few studies, the QOL outcomes varied across tests after bilateral implantation.

Conclusions and relevance: Unilateral cochlear implants provide improved hearing and significantly improve QOL, and improvements in sound localization are noted for bilateral implantation. Future studies of longer duration, higher-quality reporting, and large databases or registries of patients with long-term follow-up data are needed to yield stronger evidence.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Quality of Life*
  • Sound Localization
  • Speech Perception