Patients will have an average wait time of 20 months if they're on the Northern and Southern Cochlear Implant Trust Lists, up from 14 and 17 months respectively.
The issue causing the increase in wait time is a lack of government funding that has not kept up with the country's aging population. Studies show that the brain begins to interpret sounds with lower accuracy as a person ages, causing many elderly individuals to have hearing loss.
Health spending has declined by $2.3 billion since 2010 levels, with many implant recipients waiting four or more years for their implants. Some patients have been on the waiting list for nearly five years, despite being told the waiting period would be one or two years.
Priority has shifted to persons that have recently become deaf and want to restore their quality of life levels.
Clinics are lacking funding for the life-changing cochlear implants that work to covert auditory sounds to electric currents and transmit the impulses to the brain so that the person can hear sounds again.
YesWeCare.nz, a health funding coalition, states that many people have been kicked off waiting lists or simply cannot get on one any longer. The average cost of implants is $45,000 - $50,000, which many residents cannot afford.
One woman, named Danielle Mackay, is just 22 years old and needs an urgent operation to save her hearing. Scoop reports that Mackay was kicked off of the waiting list and now fears that she will go deaf. She has just 2 and a half years before she goes deaf if she doesn't receive the life-changing surgery.
She was told that she will not be allowed back on the waiting list for cochlear implants unless the government increases their funding. She was accepted on the list 20 months ago but has now lost hearing in her right ear and has been removed from the list.
She says that she hasn't been able to hear for the last few weeks. The loss of her hearing may jeopardize her chances of continuing to be a volunteer life-saver.
Researchers gathering at the 10th International Symposium on Objective Measures in Auditory Implants will discuss the use of new technology that will change the way cochlear implants advance in the future.
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