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.