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Early activation of cochlear implants: a systematic review and narrative synthesis.

BACKGROUND: Device activation typically occurs four weeks post cochlear implant surgery. Emerging evidence suggests earlier activation is feasible and beneficial, giving patients quicker access to sound and rehabilitation.

OBJECTIVES: Assess current literature for effects of early cochlear implant activation.

METHODS: Electronic searches of Medline/PubMed, AMED, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library following PRISMA guidelines. Studies investigating any aspect of early activation were included for review.

RESULTS: From 15 studies, 625 patients received early activation, compared with 243 patients in the control groups. Early activation was considered as within 7 days post-operatively with 12 studies reporting within 1 day post-operatively, compared with standard activation of 9-46 days post-operatively in the control group. Some studies indicated earlier low levels of impedance in the early activation group. Magnet strength adjustment or off-ear processor wear was often recommended within the early activation cohort. Complication rates were low in both groups. Early activation improved patient satisfaction and anxiety levels without detriment to speech recognition or rehabilitation.

CONCLUSION: Early cochlear implant activation is feasible and allows patients with no contraindications, earlier access to auditory perception and rehabilitation and reduces anxiety linked to delay in activation. Further evidence is required to monitor long-term effects of early activation.

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