Cochlear implants

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is severely hard of hearing or profoundly deaf.

Who can receive a cochlear implant in New Zealand?

The Ministry funds cochlear implant services for people who meet all of the following criteria:

  • You have severe to profound hearing loss in both ears.
  • Your hearing isn't helped by standard (acoustic) hearing aids.
  • You've been assessed as likely to benefit from a cochlear implant.
  • You're eligible for publicly funded health and disability services.
  • You live permanently in New Zealand.
  • You do not qualify for cochlear implant funding through ACC.

If you can say yes to all of those statements, then you may be eligible for Ministry-funded cochlear implant services. Your health provider can help you find out whether you're eligible for this service.

Find out more about eligibility for publicly funded health services.

Provision of implants

The funded service includes:

  • the assessment
  • the device (an implanted electrode and a sound processor which is worn externally)
  • the surgery
  • audiology
  • maintenance and support
  • associated ongoing support services
  • rehabilitation for adults or habilitation for children
  • device replacement.

The funded service also includes follow-up services such as replacement sound processors. These follow-up services ensure your cochlear implant works well throughout your life.

For children, the funded service also covers the cost of any repairs, batteries or spare parts for their speech processors. Adults (aged 19 years or older) don’t have these costs covered.

The Ministry does not fund follow-up services for adults (aged 19 or older) who received their implant outside of New Zealand or who paid for their implant privately.

Children may have implants funded for both ears if their specialist recommends it

From 1 July 2014 children under 19 years of age with severe to profound hearing loss in both ears who are newly assessed as needing a cochlear implant can receive Ministry funding for one ear or both ears, whichever is clinically recommended by their specialist.

Children under 6 years of age who have received Ministry funding for one implant can receive an implant for their other ear if their specialist recommends it.

Children under 19 years of age who receive Ministry funding for cochlear implants for both ears will be funded for follow-up services for both ears.

Children under 19 years of age who have received Ministry funding for one cochlear implant and received an implant for their second ear, funded through other means, prior to 1 July 2014, will be funded for follow-up services for both ears.

Only one implant is funded for adults

The evidence suggests that a single implant can provide adults with useful hearing so they can communicate more easily.

A limited amount of funding is available for cochlear implants. By only funding one implant per adult we ensure we can help as many people as possible.

Adults who have had meningitis may have implants funded for both ears if their specialist recommends it

Meningitis can cause cochlear ossification – where the cartilage in the ear hardens into bone. If this happens, a person might not be able to get another electrode (implant) inserted if they needed it (eg, if the first electrode failed). So adults who have had meningitis can be funded to get two implants, if their specialist recommends it.

Annual funding for cochlear implants

More than $15 million is currently funded for implants and associated support each year. This is enabling approximately 160 people to have cochlear implants annually.

Who provides cochlear implant services and where

The Ministry contracts two providers to offer implant services.

  1. The Northern Cochlear Implant Programme (NCIP) covers Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Rotorua and Taupo.
  2. The Southern Cochlear Implant Programme (SCIP) covers the rest of New Zealand.

These providers select the hospitals where surgery for cochlear implants takes place. The hospitals may be public or private hospitals.

If you live outside a main centre, the cost of travel to the hospital for an audiology assessment, surgery and follow-up appointments may be covered through the National Travel Assistance Scheme.

Understanding the service

The Service Specification describes the services that the Ministry is buying, and the agreement that the Ministry has with a service provider about delivering the service. It includes information about who can access the service and other service requirements.

Find out more

For more information, contact your local audiologist or Advisor on Deaf Children.

For more information on the programme and on cochlear implants, visit the:

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