Will using Cochlear Implants early help speech development in children?

A story from the Medical News Bulletin about research which helps to deal with the apprehension faced when kids have Cochlear Implants.

Editor comment

This is a fascinating read. Language development studies in D/deaf children twenty years ago didn’t have detailed findings related to Cochlear Implant kids. It’s heartening to discover that early cochlear implantation can result in rapid auditory development and exclusive oral communication. There are limitations in the study which are identified in the article. Also, the article suggests that language development in D/deaf children is not possible without Cochlear Implants when sign language is clearly a natural language. This is something I will raise with the publication.


Cochlear implants are implantable hearing devices. Patients have to undergo complex surgical procedure requiring anesthesia as well as a long follow-up to help restore hearing loss. Because of this, there is substantial concern about the use of cochlear implants in children.

Speech development takes place in the early years of life. Infants perceive speech by six months of age and develop language by two years. Researchers from Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, USA undertook a study to show the safety and effectiveness of cochlear implants in young children and how they can benefit speech development. This study was published in the journal Otology& Neurotology.

The study included 219 children below three years of age.

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Story continued…

Early cochlear implantation demonstrated promising results

Infants who had cochlear implants acquired auditory skills more rapidly and showed early speech understanding ability than those implanted as toddlers. In addition, 88.2% of them exclusively used spoken language to communicate. The age at implantation was especially significant for medically complex children, two-thirds of them achieved an oral-only mode of communication when implanted below the age of one year.

Growing literature states that early cochlear implantation results in rapid auditory development and exclusive oral communication, without the necessity of sign language. This study further substantiates the above fact.

The limitations of this study include the inability to measure the level of speech perception due to young age groups and developmental status of the kids which require more sophisticated tests and procedures. More research on the comprehension ability, receptive and expressive language skills is required. The effects of socioeconomic status and parenting on the study results need to be explored.

Many children are not evaluated for cochlear implants until they are more than one year old

At present, screening tests for hearing loss are routinely used, leading to early detection of hearing loss and use of hearing aids. However, increased awareness and prompt referral, with the promotion of cochlear implants are essential.

In the words of Stephen Hoff, Associate Professor at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in a recent press release, “More than 90% of deaf children have hearing parents. Most parents hope that a cochlear implant will enable their child to talk. However, early implantation is not a public policy priority. For this reason, many children are not evaluated for cochlear implantation until they are over age 12 months.”

Read the full article here:

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