An organisation dedicated to helping those with serious hearing loss say nearly 200 adults will never hear again unless the Government increases funding for cochlear implant procedures.
The Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) has released figures showing the annual number of adult surgeries needs to be increased from 40 to 120, to address the most urgent cases.
Raetihi resident Ricky McLeod is one of those at risk and has been on the waiting list for a cochlear implant since 2015.
McLeod's profound hearing loss has impacted on employment opportunities and resulted in a lack of confidence, so he spends most of his days working in a secluded warehouse where he strips cars for scrap metal.
It's a place where McLeod knows he won't have to socialise.
Hearing loss makes it difficult for McLeod to communicate so he has limited contact with others, aside from one friend who helps him communicate when needed.
SCIP general manager Neil Heslop says the annual base figure of 40 surgeries hasn't changed in five years and is now inadequate.
"Without an increase in Government support the majority will never hear again - unless they have $50,000 to fund the procedure with privately,
"What's more, based on current referral rates there could be 500 adults waiting for a cochlear implant in as little as four years."
Heslop says often those in need of a cochlear implant will experience clinical depression or anxiety, which can lead to downstream social and economic effects on them and their family.
"Behind the numbers there are real people. Parents who can no longer hear their children's voices, talented professionals who are now unemployed, and people who are isolated because they can't communicate."
Government funding for children's surgeries is currently meeting demand.