Audiologists from the University of Southampton are investigating how a new patient–centered approach can help cochlear implant users self-manage their annual follow-up care program.

According to the University of Southampton, more than 13,000 people use cochlear implants in the UK. Currently, cochlear implant users must visit their implant clinic annually for the rest of their lives to monitor their hearing and check their implant device. However, some patients may not be able to attend clinic sessions due to work, family commitments, or travel, and have expressed an interest in managing their own care needs.

The University of Southampton Auditory Implant Service has launched a new clinical trial involving 60 patients who will use an online care package to determine whether the routine annual clinic check can be replaced with a personalized online version, better suited to the user’s needs. The study is being funded by the Health Foundation.

Helen Cullington, PhD

Helen Cullington, PhD

The study is led by audiologist Helen Cullington, PhD, who is responding to users’ requests to manage their own care by investigating how feasible it is to offer remote care. Cullington notes that remote care won’t work for everyone, but could make a major difference to the lives of many cochlear implant users. She adds that the study team is also interviewing clinic staff to see what the impact of remote care is on them and the service that they provide.

During the six-month randomized trial, half the participants will undertake the standard clinical program, while the other half will undertake the remote care package. The patients will reportedly monitor their hearing and do their own hearing rehabilitation and device care at home using an open source software program called “Lifeguide,” which was developed at the University. They will manage the majority of their care needs through online information, hearing exercises, troubleshooting support, and training goal setting. Some patients will also be able to fine-tune their hearing at home to suit their own real-world environment.

At the end of the trial, all participants will undergo a hearing test and an implant check to see if the remote care package provided the feedback and support users needed, and if the remote program could be adopted across the UK.

Source: University of Southampton

Image credits: University of Southampton; © Elizabeth Hoffmann |