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Read Original Story

Life – now in ‘surround sound’: Ex-Miss America has 2nd implant to aid hearing

Rating

2 Star

Life – now in ‘surround sound’: Ex-Miss America has 2nd implant to aid hearing

Our Review Summary

The story is largely anecdotal and it provides no quantitative evidence of the success of cochlear implants. We are also not told if multiple surgeries are ever necessary, or if there are any potential side effects of the surgery or implant. Also, the story does not mention that with cochlear implants, patients must work with an audiologist and/or speech therapist to learn or relearn how to make sense of certain sounds. The story does provide the cost of the implant; however, the costs and time associated with post-surgical audiology and speech therapy are not mentioned.

Sources other than the former Miss American’s surgeon and audiologist are needed for a more balanced perspective on the device. A discussion of the pros and cons of the implant is also needed. The story mentions that the cochlear implants are typically covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and they are available for people who understand fewer than one-third of spoken words; however, the story does not discuss if the surgery needs to be performed by a specialist or if it is only available at certain medical centers. The story mentions John Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance in the context of one person’s account following cochlear implant surgery, and that one person travelled from Atlanta to Baltimore for the procedure. So the availability issue is not adequately addressed.

The story notes that cochlear implants have been available since the 1970’s, but they have improved in design and technology. The story provides a good description of the criteria necessary for consideration of a cochlear implant, but it does not discuss the option of no treatment. Some people in the deaf community may want to avoid the risks of surgery, or they may want to maintain current means of communication, such as lip reading and sign language. Cochlear implantation is generally safe, but complications from general anesthesia or the surgery itself are still a possibility.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Satisfactory

The story does provide the cost of the implant, however, costs and time associated with relearning and interpreting sounds is not mentioned. A co-pay may still be necessary, even if covered by insurance. This cost or deductible might be a percentage of the implant and surgery, which at $40, 000+ would be significant to many patients. So, while this is a potentially misleading statement, we’ll give the story the benefit of the doubt and grade it satisfactory on costs.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

This story is anecdotal and no quantitative evidence on the success of dual implantation is provided.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention potential harms of the surgery, or long-term side risks associated with the implant.

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story is anecdotal and it provides no quantitative evidence of the success of cochlear implants, does not mention sif reoperation is ever necessary or the incidence of side effects of the surgery and/or implant.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to be disease mongering and an estimate of cochlear implants worldwide in provided.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

Sources other than Heather McCallum’s surgeon and audiologist are needed for a more balanced perspective on the device. A discussion of the pros and cons of the implant and surgery is needed.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides a good description of the criteria for an implant, but the option of not having treatment is not discussed. The story also didn’t discuss other means of communication (such as lip reading and sign language) for the hearing impaired. Some people in the deaf community may want to avoid the risks of surgery, or they may want to maintain current means of communication, such as lip reading and sign language. Also, the story does not mention that with cochlear implants, patients must work with an audiologist and/or speech therapist to learn or relearn a sense of hearing and how to make sense of certain sounds.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Not Satisfactory

The story mentions that the implants are typically covered by insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid. However, the story does not discuss if the surgery needs to be performed by a specialist or if it is only performed at certain medical centers. The story only mentions John Hopkins Center for Hearing and Balance in the context of one person’s account of receiving a cochlear implant, and that one person traveled from Atlanta to Baltimore for the procedure. The availability issue was not adequately addressed.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The story notes that cochlear implants have been available since the 1970’s but they have improved in design and technology. It also includes one surgeon’s estimate that “about 10 percent of the 100,000 people worldwide with implants have them in both ears.”

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Not Applicable

We can’t be sure how much the story relied on a news release, although there was a Johns Hopkins news release announcing the ex-Miss American’s second implant and inviting reporters to sit in on the procedure, and offering interviews with the same patient, surgeon and audiologist who appeared in the story. Nonetheless, because we can’t be sure of the influence of the news release, we rate this as neither satisfactory nor unsatisfactory.

Total Score: 3 of 9 Satisfactory

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