No Long Wait for Cochlear Implants

No Long Wait for Cochlear ImplantsNo Long Wait for Cochlear Implants

Around 1,147 cochlear devices were implanted in persons with damaged hearing at authorized centers over the past fiscal year that ended on March 20, with financial assistance from the Health Ministry’s so-called Board of Trustees for Patient Treatment.

Iran began cochlear implants in 1992 and the board has been supporting such medical procedures inside the country since its founding in 1999. So far, 8,718 cochlear devices have been implanted as per official statistics, Mehr News Agency reported.

A cochlear implant is an electronic medical device that replaces the function of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids, which make sounds louder, cochlear implants bypass the damaged hair cells of the inner ear (cochlea) to provide sound signals to the brain.

The procedure costs 465 million rials ($12,000) in Iran including the cost of the medical device as well as the hospital fees, and 100 sessions of rehabilitation and speech therapy.

For the less-privileged strata in particular, the board pays 405 million rials ($10,500) to meet the costs under an official waitlist procedure. This means only 60 million rials ($1,500) has to be paid by the patient.  

Patients can also bypass the queue by paying half the amount of 200 million rials ($5,300) from their pockets. The rest is provided by the fund.

In the past, those seeking cochlear implants had to wait for around three or four years from the time of their registration until their turn for the surgery. But over the past four years, this period has been reduced to a maximum of two months as sufficient devices are made available. This means that the applicant will be operated no later than two months from the time they register.

  Cost of Device Declines

The price of cochlear implants has also seen a considerable decrease from ($15,200) in 2010 to around ($9,800) in 2016 due to the growth of a competitive market as well as purchases through tenders.

The board of trustees was established under the supervision of the Health Ministry as a fund to provide financial assistance for the treatment of patients mainly in organ transplants. It also provides monetary aid in other medical treatments so that people can avoid seeking costly healthcare services overseas and save foreign exchange.

Not everyone with hearing impairment can qualify for cochlear implant. The technology can help adults who have moderate to profound sensorineural hearing loss in both ears, receive little or no benefit from hearing aids, score 50% or less on sentence recognition tests done by hearing professionals in the ear to be implanted and 60% or less in the non-implanted ear or in both ears with hearing aids.

Children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss and limited benefit from binaural amplification can be candidates for the surgery. The Food and Drug Administration has approved cochlear implantation in children as young as 12 months. This only applies if the child has profound hearing loss since birth, and hearing aids haven’t helped.

There are 11 centers that perform cochlear implants in the country.

The board’s five members are appointed by the health minister and the current members are Abbas Sheibani (founder), Seyed Ali Sadrossadat, Mohsen Bahrami, Ebrahim Raeesiyoun, and Seyed Abbas Hassani.

The board’s budget is approved every year along with the annual national budget and its expenditure is supervised by the ministry.  As a major supplier of medical equipment, the board should also send its audit report to the Majlis Health Commission every four months.

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