Developmental problems in children with cochlear implants

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A new study has found that deaf children who have undergone cochlear implants may be at higher risk of developmental stunting in higher thinking and memory.

Cochlear implants are devices that provide a sense of sound to those who are hard of hearing or deaf.

The study included 73 deaf children who had had cochlear implants prior to reaching their seventh birthday, along with 78 normal hearing children. All the children involved in the study had average to above-average IQ levels.

It was found that children with cochlear implants were two to five times at risk of having delays in attention and conceptual learning, planning and memory. These are known as executive level functioning.

The research team from Indiana University also found that the risks were reduced for those who had the implant done at an earlier age. The results indicated that children who received the implants at 18 months experienced fewer executive functioning delays than children who received it at around 28 months.

The researchers stated that many of the deaf children developed increased executive functioning skills once they had received the cochlear implant.

The author of the study, William Kronenberger, who is a professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry, said that children who received the implants improved in neurocognitive skills and spoken language. However, they have a period of catching up and learning if they had experienced hearing loss before the implant was placed.

He said that most of the interventions used to aid in this learning have been focused on language and speech. The new findings indicate that there is a need to determine and aid some of the children in certain parts of executive functioning too.

The co-author of the study, David Pisoni, the direct of the Speech Research Laboratory at the university, said the team will not start looking for early risk signs in children prior to the implantation procedure.

He stated that it would be beneficial to identify those who are at risk of poor results. The differences in the results should be assessed and understood, and a determination made as to how it will be handled.

Image Credit: Aston Clulow

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