China has about 20 million people with hearing and speech disorders according to the latest national census. 3 million are deaf and 17.7 million have hearing loss but only 2% of Chinese have access to hearing aids. Aside from this, there is an estimated 800,000 children below 7 years old with hearing loss who would benefit from cochlear implant. This figure is expected to increase by 20,000–30,000 every year because about 30,000 babies are born with hearing difficulty each year. The major causes of hearing loss in China include infection, heredity, presbycusis, otitis media, and noise-induced hearing loss. Australia’s Cochlear Implant sees a good potential market in China to help its citizens have a good aural healthcare.
A cochlear implant is an electronic device that provides a sense of sound to a person who is severely hard of hearing or profoundly deaf. It directly translates soundwaves into signals and sends to the brain which allows the user to perceive sound. CI not only amplifies sound but also improves speech perception and reduces tinnitus. The Cochlear Implant was pioneered at the University of Melbourne. A systematic review shows evidence of the effectiveness of cochlear implant in people with bilateral hearing loss. CI improves hearing in noisy environments (like our ACM Group office) for people with severe hearing loss. It also improves overall hearing ability, reduces tinnitus and quality of life.
The ageing population and the number of children affected by hearing loss in China gives Australia’s Cochlear, the leader in hearing implant technology a huge opportunity to help the Chinese people. The huge market let the company predict increase sales in China. CI penetration in China is currently less than 5% of potential paediatric candidates, but cochlear implantation is continuing to expand at great speed, and it is hoped that the infrastructure and capacity will continue to grow and develop.
The rapidly developing technology in China aims to identify and treat people with hearing and speech-language disorders. Bosch China launched the world’s first standardized Chinese language speech audiometric system. In 2015. It is designed as speech testing software to assess people’s hearing abilities and evaluate the clinical effect of medical devices such as hearing aids and cochlear implants. This system is expected to help develop the audiology sector in China to adapt to the international standards of speech audiometry.
China is also currently developing low-cost alternatives in hearing implant. Health regulators in China give local company Nurotron an approval to sell its implant on the mainland. There is an increased competition from the local rival Nurotron and other lower-cost brands because of the price factor. But the Chinese government keeps a part of the national tender open to foreign companies to boost quality and make the local implant industry better. Although the price of the local devices are lower compared to Australia’s Cochlear, the leading hearing implant manufacturer can still compete in China. It predicts increased sales in China because of its quality and continues innovation.
Hearing technology leader Australia’s Cochlear Implant continues to innovate to maintain its international market leadership. The HEARing CRC with Dr. Andrew Vandali, its Project Leader is currently developing sound processing technology that works better with tonal language particularly Mandarin to adapt to the Chinese market. This project is determining how sound coding schemes in implants be changed to better present pitch and inter-aural time cues for their wearers. The Hearing (Re)habilitation section of HEARnet Learning offers training modules to help health professionals in China to develop new skills and knowledge in the clinical habilitation and rehabilitation of hearing loss and hearing impairment. HEARnet Learning also has free online training to help patients get the best out of their cochlear implants.