Word learning better in deaf children who receive cochlear implants by age 13 months
A growing body of evidence points to the importance of early auditory input for developing language skills. Indiana University Department of Otolaryngology researchers have contributed to that evidence with several projects, including their study involving 20 deaf children (22- to 40-months-old and 12 to 18 months after cochlear implantation) and 20 normal hearing children (12- to 40-months of age) that was presented Feb. 21 at the AAAS meeting.
The study's principal author, Derek Houston, Ph.D., associate professor and Philip F. Holton Scholar at the IU School of Medicine, said the study found that deaf children's word-learning skills were strongly affected by their early auditory experience.
"This research is significant because surgery at very young ages requires more expertise," said Dr. Houston. "It is important to know if the increased benefit of early auditory input warrants surgery at younger ages."
Currently, the Food and Drug Administration guidelines approve cochlear implantation at one year of age, although many children are implanted as young as 6 months of age.
Dr. Houston said the research showed that deaf children's word-learning skill was strongly affected by their early auditory experience, whether that experience was through normal means or with a cochlear implant.
Children who received the implant by the age of 13 months performed similarly to their normal-hearing counterparts while children who received a cochlear implant later performed, on average, more poorly than their normal-hearing peers.