New Zealand adults on long waiting lists for cochlear implants have significantly poorer health than their peers, new research says.
The investigation by researchers in Auckland and Canada has prompted them to urge more spending on cochlear implantation.
The study, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal, found those on the cochlear implant waiting list suffered from longer-lasting illnesses, were medicated for a greater number of conditions and had poorer mental health.
"There are lengthy waiting lists for adult cochlear implantation. The need to wait and the lack of a known date for surgery in combination with having a profound hearing loss is likely to result in chronic stress," the study said.
"Chronic stress may increase the risk of physical and mental illness via physiological systems which mediate response to environmental threats.
"Cochlear implantation may alleviate chronic stress in people on the waiting list and these findings support the hypothesis that this influences physical health."
The study compared the health of two groups: 44 people on the cochlear implant waiting list and 119 who had already had implants.
It found people on the waiting list were more likely to suffer from many conditions including hypertension, neck pain, arthritis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
It also found health conditions were more persistent in those on the waiting list and most were the result of the stress from suffering substandard hearing.
"On average, individuals on the waiting list, when affected by any condition, were affected for 164 days compared to 97 days for those with cochlear implants," the study said.
The research said funding for adult cochlear implantation was limited. Increasing the funding could significantly reduce the health problems for those people on the waiting list.
"Reduction of the waiting list time for cochlear implantation may contribute to the reduction of stress-associated medical conditions in those who have lost their hearing and thereby reduce the burden on the health system."
The research was conducted by two members of the Northern Cochlear Implant Programme and one of the School of Population Health all from the University of Auckland and an audiologist from Canada's Ministry of Education.
- In New Zealand, access to cochlear implantation for adults is limited
- Adults must go on a waiting list with no advised date of surgery
- Many remain on that waiting list for more than a year - the mean time on the waiting list is about four years
- Waiting for medical intervention has been shown to increase stress and reduce quality of life
Source: New Zealand Medical Journal