Deaf children benefit from cochlear implants early
Deaf children who received a cochlear implants before they reached 18 months old saw a marked improvement in their ability to hear, speak and comprehend, a new study by Johns Hopkins researchers found.
Cochlear implants are a small device that stimulates the auditory nerve to provide a sense of sound to adults and children with hearing loss.
The study, appearing today in the new issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, followed 188 children ages 6 months to 5 years, who had profound hearing loss for three years. Researchers found improvements in speech and language comprehension in children across the board, but those who received implants younger than 18 months had bigger improvements. These children nearly caught up with their normal-hearing peers and tended to reach milestones faster than those who got implants later.
In fact, each year that implants are delayed can put a child behind in language development, researchers concluded.
The results are significant because children who have severe hearing loss struggle to develop language skills, because they can't detect the cues needed to recognize speech -- even when they used hearing aids, the authors write. Cochlear implants may be a better alternative for children -- especially when started younger, they concluded.
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