Managing hearing health in older adults has become a public health imperative, and cochlear implantation is now the standard of care for aural rehabilitation when hearing aids no longer provide sufficient benefit. The aim of our study was to compare speech performance in cochlear implant patients ≥80 years of age (Very Elderly) to a younger elderly cohort between ages 65-79 years (Less Elderly).
Data were collected from 53 patients ≥80 years of age and 92 patients age 65-79 years who underwent cochlear implantation by the senior author between April 1, 2017 and May 12, 2020. The primary outcome measure compared preoperative AzBio Quiet scores to 6-month post-activation AzBio Quiet results for both cohorts.
Very Elderly patients progressed from an average AzBio Quiet score of 22% preoperatively to a score of 45% in the implanted ear at 6-months post-activation (p < 0.001) while the Less Elderly progressed from an average score of 27% preoperatively to 60% at 6-months (p < 0.001). Improvements in speech intelligibility were statistically significant within each of these cohorts (p < 0.001). Comparative statistics using independent samples t-test and evaluation of effect size using the Hedges' g statistic demonstrated a significant difference for average improvement of AzBio in quiet scores between groups with a medium effect size (p = 0.03, g = 0.35). However, when the very oldest patients (90+ years) were removed, the statistical difference between groups disappeared (p = 0.09).
When assessing CI performance, those over age 65 are typically compared to younger patients; however, this manuscript further stratifies audiometric outcomes for older CI recipients in a single-surgeon, high-volume practice. Our data indicates that for speech intelligibility, patients between age 65-79 perform similarly to CI recipients 80-90 years of age and should not be dismissed as potential cochlear implant candidates.

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