05 July 2010

Cochlear implants - the earlier, the better

Children who receive cochlear implants before the age of 18 months are more able to hear, comprehend sound and music, and speak than their counterparts who receive the implants at a later age, a study shows.
Cochlear implants - the earlier, the better

Significantly higher rates of comprehension and expression were noted in children undergoing implantation of cochlear implants when younger than 18 months of age. This is the case when compared with children undergoing implantation between 18 and 36 months and at older than 36 months, according to research published in Journal of the American Medical.

Children who received the implants before they turned 18 months showed speech comparable to that of their hearing counterparts, the study showed. Children who received the cochlear implant after they turned 3, however, still exhibited some gaps when compared to same-age children without hearing loss.
“Children normally begin to pair the sounds of speech with meaning between six months and one year. If a child cannot hear the full range of speech sounds at this age, the opportunities of learning speech and reflecting their thoughts by talking begin to diminish,” lead author of the study John Niparko ? MD ? says. John Niparko is the director of otology, neurotology & skull base surgery at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, USA.

Support and training important

The more support and interaction from caregivers and loved ones, the greater the benefit, the study also showed.
“You can't just put a cochlear implant on a child and be done with it. There is still work involved with helping to develop speaking skills. In and of itself, a cochlear implant is not a cure,” says Anne Oyler, audiologist and the associate director of Audiology Professional Practice at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association .

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Start with hearing aids

Parents need to make sure that the hearing of their newborn is tested within the first month of their life. Hearing aids also play a role in helping children with hearing loss who later get cochlear implants.
“If they don't pass the hearing test, they need a follow up, and if they do have hearing loss, get started with hearing aids and if the hearing aid is not helping, go on to cochlear implants,” says cochlear implant surgeon Mark Wiet, MD, head of the section of otology, neurotology, and skull base surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

About the study

The study analysed 188 children aged 6 months to 5 years. They were followed for three years after they received their cochlear implants. Researchers then analysed their language development and compared it to that of 97 children without hearing loss.


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