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Objectives: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of bilateral cochlear implantation (CI) compared with unilateral CI for deaf children in the context of the Republic of Kazakhstan health system.
Methods. A literature search was conducted, using the PubMed, Cochrane, and Embase data bases for studies that compared the effectiveness of bilateral and unilateral CI in children. The search included English language, publications from 2002–2012. Two reviewers independently evaluated all relevant studies. Administrative data relevant to CI in Kazakhstan were obtained from the Ministry of Health.
Results: Three relevant systematic reviews and an health technology assessment report were found. There was evidence of incremental benefits from bilateral CI but the quality of the available studies was poor and there was little information on longer term outcomes. No conclusions could be drawn regarding later incremental improvements to speech perception, learning, and quality of life. To date, in the Republic of Kazakhstan there is not full coverage of audiological screening due to the lack of medical equipment. This leads to late detection of hearing-impaired children and a long rehabilitation period, requiring more resources. Age of implantation in children is late and only a small minority attend general schools.
Conclusions: The clinical effectiveness of bilateral CI, an expensive health technology, requires further study. Given the current situation in Kazakhstan with audiological screening and access to unilateral CI, there appeared to be other priorities for improving services for children with profound hearing impairment.
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