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Original Investigation
August 27, 2020

Hearing and Quality-of-Life Outcomes After Cochlear Implantation in Adult Hearing Aid Users 65 Years or Older: A Secondary Analysis of a Nonrandomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri
  • 2Statistics Editor, JAMA OtolaryngologyHead & Neck Surgery
JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Published online August 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoto.2020.1585
Key Points

Question  Do patients 65 years or older derive audiometric and holistic benefits after cochlear implantation?

Findings  Seventy patients with an age range of 65 to 91 years participated in a prospective, multicenter nonrandomized clinical trial for use of cochlear implants. Older adults in this study achieved clinically meaningful improvement in both speech perception and patient-reported quality-of-life metrics with use of cochlear implants compared with an optimized bilateral hearing aid condition.

Meaning  This study is unique for its prospective, multicenter design that incorporated thorough audiometric and quality-of-life metrics in patients 65 years or older, both of which appear to support cochlear implantation in the process of healthy aging.


Importance  Hearing loss, especially moderate to severe forms, has the potential to negatively affect an individual’s physical, social, emotional, and cognitive well-being. Moreover, having ineffective binaural hearing increases difficulty understanding speech in noise and leads to a greater degree of social isolation and loneliness and a reduced quality of life (QoL).

Objective  To explore the audiometric and holistic effects of cochlear implantation in a group of adults 65 years or older compared with an optimized bilateral hearing aid condition.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This ad hoc secondary analysis of a prospective, single-subject, repeated-measures nonrandomized clinical trial included 13 cochlear implantation centers across the United States. Participants 65 years or older with postlingual bilateral moderate-to-profound sensorineural hearing loss with aided Consonant-Vowel Nucleus-Consonant (CNC) word scores in quiet of 40% or less in the ear to undergo implantation and 50% or less in the contralateral ear were included in the analysis. Baseline QoL testing was performed after 1 month of optimized bilateral hearing aid use. Participants were enrolled from February 20, 2017, to May 3, 2018, and follow-up was completed December 21, 2018. Data were analyzed from March 25, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

Interventions  Unilateral implantation with a slim, modiolar cochlear implant device. Hearing aid use in the contralateral ear was required through the 6-month primary end-point interval.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary objective was to evaluate speech perception before and 6 months after activation of a new cochlear implant. Secondary objectives were QoL metrics in the everyday listening condition before and 6 months after implantation.

Results  Seventy participants (51 men [73%]) with a median age of 74 (range, 65-91) years were included in the analysis. No major adverse events occurred. Mixed-model analysis with estimated marginal means and 95% CIs compared preimplantation baseline performance with 6-month postimplantation performance. A clinically important improvement in CNC words was shown in the bimodal condition, with a mean difference of 37.2% (95% CI, 32.0%-42.4%), and in the unilateral (cochlear implant only) condition, with a mean difference of 44.1% (95% CI, 39.0%-49.2%). A clinically important improvement in noise (AzBio sentences signal-to-noise ratio of +10 dB) was also shown, with a mean difference of 21.6% (95% CI, 15.7%-27.5%) in the bimodal condition and 24.5% (95% CI, 18.3%-30.7%) in the unilateral condition. The Health Utilities Index Mark 3 multiple-attribute score improved by 0.186 (95% CI, 0.136-0.234); the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of Hearing Scale total score improved by 2.58 (95% CI, 2.18-2.99); and a novel Device Use Questionnaire reported 94% of participants were satisfied with overall hearing in the everyday listening condition.

Conclusions and Relevance  This subgroup analysis of patients 65 years or older enrolled in a within-subject clinical trial of cochlear implantation demonstrated clinically meaningful audiometric and QoL benefit with an acceptable risk profile. These findings suggest that cochlear implantation in older adults may facilitate the concept of healthy aging.

Trial Registration  ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT03007472

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