Hearing health care access for adult cochlear implant candidates and recipients: Travel time and socioeconomic status

Laryngoscope Investig Otolaryngol. 2023 Jan 17;8(1):296-302. doi: 10.1002/lio2.1010. eCollection 2023 Feb.


Objectives: Access to cochlear implantation may be negatively influenced by extended travel time to a cochlear implant (CI) center or lower socioeconomic status (SES) for the individual. There is a critical need to understand the influence of these variables on patient appointment attendance for candidacy evaluations, and CI recipients' adherence to post-activation follow-up recommendations that support optimal outcomes.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of adult patients referred to a CI center in North Carolina for initial cochlear implantation candidacy evaluation between April 2017 and July 2019 was conducted. Demographic and audiologic data were collected for each patient. Travel time was determined using geocoding. SES was proxied using ZCTA-level Social Deprivation Index (SDI) information. Independent samples t tests compared variables between those who did and did not attend the candidacy evaluation. Pearson correlations assessed the association of these variables and the duration of time between initial CI activation and return for first follow-up visit.

Results: Three hundred and ninety patients met the inclusion criteria. There was a statistically significant difference between SDI of those who attended their candidacy evaluation versus those who did not. Age at referral or travel time did not show statistical significance between these two groups. There was no significant correlation with age at referral, travel time, or SDI with the duration of time (days) between initial activation and the 1-month follow-up.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that SES may influence a patient's ability to attend a cochlear implantation candidacy evaluation appointment and may further impact the decision to pursue cochlear implantation.Level of evidence: 4 - Case Series.

Keywords: cochlear implantation; demographics; disparities; geographic location.