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Cochlear Implants Int. 2013 Mar;14 Suppl 1:S18-25. doi: 10.1179/1467010013Z.00000000078.

Accessibility to cochlear implants in Belgium: state of the art on selection, reimbursement, habilitation, and outcomes in children and adults.

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Independent Information Center on Cochlear Implants (ONICI), Zonhoven, Belgium.


Belgium, and especially the northern region called Flanders, has been a center of expertise in cochlear implants and early hearing screening for many years. Some of their surgeons and engineers were pioneers in the development of cochlear implants and in 1998 Flanders was the first region in Europe to implement a universal hearing screening program for all neonates. The Belgian National Institute for Health and Disability Insurance has reimbursed cochlear implants in children and adults since 1994 and bilateral implantation in children under the age of 12 years since February 2010. These deaf children, screened and implanted early, achieve higher auditory, speech and language outcomes and increasing numbers are going to regular schools using fewer interpreters. In 2010, 93% of severe-to-profound deaf preschool children in Flanders had received cochlear implants and 25% had bilateral implants. Although on average twice as many adults as children are implanted a year in Belgium, we have less research data available from this adult population. Also very little is published about the growth curves and minimal rehabilitation requirements (intensity, duration etc.) after implantation for both children and adults. So, there still remain many challenges for the future.

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