Pat McFadden hails successful campaign to ease access to cochlear implants

After a strong campaign by deafness charities, members of the public and MPs including Pat McFadden, the Government is changing the guidelines to make it easier for deaf people to have cochlear implants – surgery which can have positive life changing effects for those suffering from profound hearing loss.

A few years ago, I met one of my constituents, Lamina Lloyd, whilst visiting a school in Spring Vale. Lamina had a flourishing career as the manager of a local Citizens Advice Bureau. However, Lamina had Meniere’s disease which resulted in progressive and profound hearing loss, so much so that in 2016 she had to give up work.

Lamina has two children who themselves have additional needs. She could no longer hear her children, who had to act as her ears. She described her family life as having gone from being an outdoor family to one that rarely leaves the house because of the issues with her hearing.

To try to alleviate her condition Lamina wore the most powerful hearing aids available turned up to maximum volume, but they made little difference and gave her frequent ear infections and headaches caused by feedback and squealing.

What Lamina really needed was a cochlear implant. Lamina had been reviewed for a CI but was repeatedly told that she wasn’t deaf enough (she was 5 decibels outside of the very specific NICE criteria to qualify for an implant).

Lamina and I worked on a campaign together where we called for the criteria to be reviewed to make it easier to get a cochlear implant, we highlighted that it would transform the lives of those who need the technology and ultimately transform the lives of their families and loved ones too. At the time, only 5% of adults who needed CIs got them. We worked on the campaign, not just for Lamina, but for people around the country just like her.

I took this case up in Parliament and with the Health Minister.

I am pleased to announce that following our campaign and the hard work of other campaigners around the country, the NICE guidelines for eligibility for a cochlear implant has been reviewed. And the changes that have been incorporated means transforming lives for people across the country like Lamina. The main changes are that the hearing threshold has been lowered, from 90dB to 80dB, the frequencies have been widened and the testing changed, making it much easier to now qualify for a cochlear implant, so you no longer have to lose everything before you are considered.

In 2018, Lamina underwent surgery and now has a cochlear implant which has changed her life and that of her family.

Lamina commented, “When I met Pat, I was in a really bad situation, I had lost my hearing, I had lost my job and as a family we were really struggling. Pat took my case to Parliament and raised the petition to have the guidelines changed in Parliament. This captured the attention of NICE and now the guidelines have been changed. I was implanted last year and it has been life changing, I have got my life back. With deafness, you don’t just lose your hearing; you lose friends, you lose connections and as family we’re beginning to get those back. A year on from the implant, I’m back in work, working for deaf organisation who understands my needs and I’m starting to get my life back.”

Wolverhampton South East MP, Pat McFadden said, “Lamina’s story is an inspiring one, the cochlear implant has made such a difference to her. But, even more important than the change in one person’s life is that the guidelines have now been changed. This means that people that suffer from profound deafness across the country now have more hope than they did in the past of getting these life changing implants. I want to thank all the charities who work on behalf of deaf people for the campaigning efforts they have put it to secure this change.  I also want to thank Lamina for her strength and determination to secure this change.  Up until now the UK has had some of the strictest guidelines among developed countries for access to cochlear implants.  These changes will bring this life changing treatment within easier reach for people suffering from profound deafness.”

On Wednesday 27th February, the new NICE guidelines will take affect across England and there have already been forecasts from NICE that hundreds more children and adults will become eligible for cochlear implants on the NHS.

Lamina’s story is just one of many, she is now working in a job that understands her needs and she can now hear her children.

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