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Laryngoscope. 2005 Jan;115(1):125-31.

Recent epidemiology of pediatric cochlear implantation in the United States: disparity among children of different ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

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University of Washington School of Medicine, the Department of Health Services, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.



Congenital severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is found in higher proportions of children with minority and/or lower socioeconomic status (SES). Cochlear implants were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in children with bilateral severe to profound SNHL in 1990. The objectives of the study were as follows: 1) to study the epidemiology of pediatric cochlear implantation, assessing whether cochlear implant technology is provided to children with severe to profound SNHL in proportion to their racial/ethnic or SES, and 2) to compare data provided by a national health care database with data provided by cochlear implant manufacturers.


Patients aged 0 to 18 years who underwent cochlear implantation in 1997 using a cross-sectional study design.


Analyses were made of pediatric cochlear implant patients, using data from the 1997 Health Care and Utilization Project/Kids' Inpatient Database. Relative rates of implantation compared with rates of severe to profound SNHL were calculated using national estimates generated from census and Galludet Research Institution data. Logistic regression analysis was carried out to compare implanted children of different racial/ethnic backgrounds. A surrogate measure of socioeconomic status was used based on the median household income of the patient's home ZIP code. Information was also obtained from the two companies producing U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved cochlear implants in 1997 and used to determine whether the data obtained from the Health Care and Utilization Project/Kids' Inpatient Database were representative of the national cohort of implanted children.


The Health Care and Utilization Project/Kids' Inpatient Database identified 124 children who underwent cochlear implant surgery in 1997. White and Asian children were implanted at higher rates than Hispanic and black children. Furthermore, white and Asian children received implants at greater rates than would be expected based on prevalence of severe to profound SNHL. The relative rate (RR) of implantation, defined as the proportion of children who received cochlear implants divided by the proportion of children with severe to profound SNHL (in each race/ethnicity group compared with the same ratio in white children), was similar in white (RR = 1.00) and Asian (RR = 0.93) children but markedly different in Hispanic (RR = 0.28) and black (RR = 0.10) children. Comparison of SES information from the Health Care and Utilization Project/Kids' Inpatient Database population with the manufacturers' database suggested that the Health Care and Utilization Project/Kids' Inpatient Database is representative of all implanted children in the United States. Both sources of information suggested that children receiving cochlear implants in the United States in 1997 resided in above-average SES areas.


White and Asian children with severe to profound SNHL had higher proportionate rates of cochlear implantation than black and Hispanic children in 1997. Implanted children were more likely to live in areas (represented by ZIP codes) with higher median incomes. Although there was a disparity in rate of cochlear implantation based on race/ethnicity and surrogate measures of SES, these data did not allow the authors to determine the causes for these differences.

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