Cochlear implants costs and cost coverage: What to consider28.September.2020
The decision to go ahead with a cochlear implant, or any other type of hearing implant, can be a difficult one that raises many questions and concerns. Apart from the medical and health aspects, the issue of costs and cost coverage for a hearing implant is an important factor to consider.
The price of assessment, the cochlear implant system, surgery and follow-up appointments (in the first year) can be compared to that of a medium-sized car. However, the good news is that in the UK, costs for cochlear implant treatments are covered by the NHS, free of charge for those who are eligible. Read on for tips on cost coverage.
Are costs for a cochlear implant covered?
Currently in the UK, adults (aged 18+) who fulfill the criteria for cochlear implantation are eligible to receive a single implant on the National Health Service (NHS). Only adults who have additional sensory needs; for example, individuals who are deaf-blind; are eligible for bilateral (two) implants. Adults who do not have additional sensory needs, are permitted to self-fund or obtain a second implant through private health insurance in the UK. Your audiologist will be able to discuss your options with you based on your individual circumstances.
If you have a child (up to their 18th birthday) who fulfils the criteria for cochlear implantation, they are eligible to receive two (bilateral) implants on the NHS. Normally this is carried out as one (simultaneous) surgery. However, occasionally, for various medical reasons, each side may be implanted in separate (sequential) surgeries.
If you are keen to speak with someone who has gone through this process themselves, the HearPeers Mentors are all hearing implant users who have useful tips on their experiences with costs and with the NHS. They are happy to share their personal experiences along with their journey to hearing with a hearing implant. You can get in touch with them here.
What about ongoing costs?
A few weeks after surgery, you will receive your audio processor for your cochlear implant. Audio processors for children and adults are also paid for by the NHS, as are the battery costs, maintenance and repair costs, most accessories and connectivity devices, and upgrades after a certain number of years. If the implantation is funded privately then you should check with your provider as to what ongoing support arrangements and costs might be.
The costs of follow-up programming / fitting appointments, speech therapy, and rehabilitation are also covered by the NHS. The number of sessions and level of support provided for speech therapy and rehabilitation varies across the UK, and will be tailored to an individual’s needs, but you can additionally pay for more rehabilitation yourself from a private provider if you want to.
Whilst most ongoing costs are covered by the NHS, it is still important to clarify your personal needs beforehand with your audiologist as they can give you specific advice on your individual situation.
It may also be worth remembering that whilst provision is free from the NHS, there may still be some indirect costs – such as travelling to the clinic for appointments, and potentially the need for you to take some time off work to attend appointments, etc. Some patients also like to obtain spares and accessories, over and above those provided by their implant clinic, which can be purchased directly from their implant and audio processor manufacturer.
Insurance for the audio processor?
It can be difficult to get insurance as your audio processor remains the property of the NHS. The NHS will have responsibility for covering repair and replacement costs, although local hospital policy may vary so it is important to speak with your audiologist or ENT specialist about what is covered and what is not.
If you want to learn more about life with hearing implants, the stories of other hearing implant users give a good insight into daily life with hearing implants. HearPeers Mentors share their experiences about what it is like to live and hear with implants and are happy to answer your individual questions. You can contact a HearPeers Mentor here