Deaf children who get cochlear implants earliest get the biggest language boost, large study finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The younger deaf and hearing-impaired children are when a cochlear implant awakens their hearing, the better they will do on speech recognition tests later in life, according to the new results of the largest and most carefully designed study of its kind.

In fact, University of Michigan Health System researchers report, the positive effect of early implantation is evident even in comparisons of younger and older children who have had their implants for the same length of time, despite the older children's maturity advantage.

The new evidence, published in the January issue of the journal Otology and Neurotology (formerly the American Journal of Otology), adds to the growing proof that eligible hearing-impaired children should receive cochlear implants as early as possible if they cannot benefit from hearing aids.

"We found a significant difference in speech recognition between those who got their implants between the ages of two and four years, during the critical language development period, and those who received them later," says Paul Kileny, Ph.D., lead author and professor and head of audiology at UMHS. "We also found that the longer children had had their implants, the better they did, though the effect was still largest in those who were implanted earliest."

The study looked at test results from 101 children who received the same model of cochlear implant at UMHS between the ages of 2 and 14 years. The group's size and the identical management of the patients make the study's results more relevant than those of past studies of the implanted electronic hearing devices. The children represent one-third of all pediatric patients ever treated in the UMHS program, one of the oldest and largest in the country.

The children were divided roughly in half, to allow for two analyses that could help isolate the effect of age at implantation on speech perception. One group of 48 children had their speech-recognition skills test

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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