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June 29, 2004

30-year waiting list to hear again

From:, Australia - Jun 29, 2004

By Medical Writer JILL PENGELLEY
June 29, 2004

ADULTS in need of a cochlear implant will have to wait up to 30 years for the procedure.

About 60 people are on the waiting list to receive the electronic hearing device at Flinders Medical Centre, where only two such operations are performed each year.

Opposition health spokesman Dean Brown, who raised the issue in a Budget estimates committee, has called on the State Government to fund the program.

"There is an obligation on the state to ensure that people with hearing disability have the greatest chance of overcoming that disability," he said.

Port Noarlunga toolmaker Sam Loeser, 26, cancelled his appointment for an assessment last year when he learned he would be in his 50s before he reached the top of the waiting list.

Mr Loeser, who has progressive hearing loss, can no longer hear an alarm clock or television and must lip-read to understand speech.

"When you're young, everything you take in will develop you for being an adult," he said.

"I'd love to try one (an implant) but it doesn't seem like the Government is doing anything for people like me in this state.

"If they can help people like me, they should."

Mr Loeser said he was becoming increasingly isolated and could not do more study or run a business.

He spent a lot of his spare time surfing and playing bass guitar because he could still hear sounds in the lower register.

More than 2000 people have signed a petition calling for more support for the SA Adult Cochlear Implant Program.

The president of the implant support group Cicada SA, Julie Le Page, said people with private health insurance could not jump the waiting list because there was no one available for critical tuning of the device once it had been implanted.

She said there were three audiologists trained to do the work but the funding only paid for one of them to work one day a week.

Miss Le Page said there was no State Government contribution to the program and the number of adult implants had dropped from six a year in 1986 to two a year since 1997. She said New South Wales, with a much larger population, had only 40 people on the waiting list.

"This is very difficult for people and their families," she said.

"I've known people to be put off their jobs.

"It's a hidden disability and people think you're dumb."

Health Minister Lea Stevens told the estimates committee the cochlear implant program was under review. "We are looking at increasing funding towards that program," she said.

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