Brazilian Ministry of Health allocates money to update speech processors

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©Cochlear

In November, Brazil’s Ministry of Health agreed to pay $7 million (US) to replace speech processors in 911 patients with cochlear implants who are served by its public health care system. The allocation came at the request of ADAP, an association that supports cochlear implant users in Brazil.

The replacements were for many patients who had surgeries performed between 1999 and 2006 whose device model had been discontinued by manufacturers who would no longer repair. Patients would be covered for repair only one year passed the date the processors were discontinued.

“Most of these users are not able to hear anymore; in some cases fixing the devices was no longer possible,” said Cristiane Vieira, a coordinator at ADAP. “In some cases, fixing them would be very expensive – up to $1,500US – which is well beyond the means of many of these patients.”

The Ministry undertook the action to rectify an issue in a 1999 regulation which covers publicly funded cochlear implants. The regulation did not take into account the need to update speech processors which have a five-to-ten year lifespan but whose warranties are only valid for three years.

The Ministry of Health is currently working on a new regulation for cochlear implants that should fix the problem. Before the Ministry’s decision, cochlear implant users depended on ADAP for support once their warranties had expired. Despite its crucial role, the ADAP does not receive any public funding. “The government intends to take responsibility for the task that the ADAP has been fulfilling for 15 years”, explains Cristiane Vieira.

Stephane Lavoine