RIDBC partners with NSW Health to bring world class cochlear implant services to the Mid North Coast

RIDBC Audiologist Elise Coombs (left) with Port Macquarie resident and cochlear implant recipient Marianne Kilmurray.RIDBC Audiologist Elise Coombs (left) with Port Macquarie resident and cochlear implant recipient Marianne Kilmurray.

In a first for the state of NSW, RIDBC have partnered with the Mid North Coast Local Health District to provide end-to-end cochlear implant services at Port Macquarie Base Hospital and the newly refurbished RIDBC Port Macquarie centre.

In Australia today, more than 92% of adults with significant hearing loss who could benefit from a cochlear implant are not exploring this life changing technology due to a lack of awareness and the limited availability of local comprehensive services.

With more than 140 people in the Mid North Coast region with cochlear implants and a further 22 in the assessment stage, providing local services is vital to ensure Australians of all ages have access to surgery and support without the need for travel to a major city centre.

To date, over forty cochlear implant surgeries have been completed at Port Macquarie Base Hospital using state of the art equipment and expert RIDBC surgeons, giving people with hearing loss living in the region access to world class care.

"The ongoing support required for people needing cochlear implant services in country areas is significant, with numbers increasing steadily. Partnering with the Local Health District has enabled us to provide the Mid North Coast community with a level of care that previously wasn't possible without travelling to Newcastle or Sydney," said RIDBC Chief Executive, Chris Rehn.

In order to support more people with hearing loss in the region, RIDBC today officially opened a refurbished hearing facility in Port Macquarie, ensuring that cochlear implant recipients benefit from the latest technology and expertise to achieve great long-term outcomes. Along with assessment, surgery coordination, allied health services and ongoing post-implantation support for children and adults, the centre will provide local access to essential early intervention programs for children with hearing loss and a base for regional outreach programs.

"A lack of access to local services can be a significant barrier when it comes to addressing hearing issues, particularly for older Australians. This refurbished site provides a fully equipped, dedicated environment in a key precinct, allowing good community access to our services," said Mr Rehn.

The refurbishment and upgrades to the RIDBC Port Macquarie Centre were made possible thanks to the generosity of RIDBC donors, a grant from the NSW State Government, and financial support from The Unsworth Foundation and Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation.

Newcastle Permanent Charitable Foundation Chair, Phil Neat echoed Mr Rehn’s comments saying, “One of the major barriers to receiving a cochlear implant for those living in northern NSW is the frequent travel to Newcastle or Sydney that is needed for evaluation, testing, procedures and follow up. Our funding for the dedicated sound room means that RIDBC can offer complete cochlear implant services to those living in this region”.

Mr Neat said its $61,800 grant funded the purchase and installation of the dedicated audiometric room. The acoustic design of the audiometric room eliminates outside sounds and noise so accurate assessments can be conducted.

RIDBC encourages people with hearing loss to be proactive about getting their hearing tested and to contact the Port Macquarie centre on 1300 581 391 to explore whether a cochlear implant might be suitable for them.