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September 22, 2006

Bilateral ear implants 'emerging trend'

From: The Age - Melbourne,Victoria,Australia - Sep 22, 2006

Only about 10 per cent of Cochlear Ltd's units sold in the United States are for bilateral implants, but the hearing implant maker says it is an emerging trend that has the potential to double its market.

Cochlear president and chief executive officer Dr Chris Roberts said it was only early days for bilateral implants, where an implant is placed in both ears.

"That there doubles our market," Dr Roberts told the Merrill Lynch Australia investment conference.

"It is still only very early days in terms of bilaterals. Probably only maybe 10 per cent of our units in the US would be for bilateral implantation but (it's) a very exciting area."

Cochlear, which has a 70 per cent share of the global market for cochlear implants, has said the increase in bilateral implants is an emerging trend, particularly in the US.

It said clinical data supported the significant benefit from binaural hearing, where the brain can process and compare sounds from both ears, and the longer a recipient waits for the second implant, the longer it takes and the more difficult it is to achieve binaural hearing.

While Cochlear had not provided information on how fast the bilateral implant market was growing, Dr Roberts said "definitely there's a significant trend".

"It will happen over the next couple of years, it is happening," he told journalists.

Reimbursement from insurers was also an issue but one major US insurer had recently released a written policy stating it would cover bilateral implants.

"The stars are aligning quite favourably for bilateral implantation but most importantly the results that people are getting have been fantastic," Dr Roberts said.

© 2006. The Age Company Ltd.