Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Younger is better when implanting cochlear implants


Deaf children who receive cochlear implants do better learning language and speech the younger they receive the implants, according to research by scientists at Indiana University School of Medicine.

However, it’s not clear whether implanting children before they turn age one is worth the potential risks associated with such early surgeries, the researchers said. The work will be presented next week at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America.

The study, by Mario Svirsky, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, and Rachael Holt, Ph.D., post-doctoral fellow in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, also supports the theory that there is a "sensitive period" for optimal language development during the early years of life. In the study, the speed at which language was learned was greater for children who received cochlear implants earlier. The implants provide congenitally deaf children with a sense of hearing, but the children must learn how to interpret the sounds the implants provide. The researchers studied 96 children who received the implants in their first, second, third and fourth years of life, evaluating their progress with language skills and speech perception every six months. Those who received the implants earlier consistently performed better on tests of language skills -- learning vocabulary, grammar, and other such language rules -- and speech perception -- their ability to understand spoken words -- than did those who received the implants later. "Not only is earlier better, but we found that language gains tended to be faster for children who received cochlear implants earlier in life," said Dr. Svirsky.

However, children implanted before they turned one year old did not appear to do any better than those implanted during their second year. Infants as young as six months old have started receiving the implants, but there are potential risks associated with such early treatment, including the use of anesthesia and the difficulties in accurately diagnosing profound deafness. The findings regarding the youngest patients may be due to sample size, Dr. Svirsky said, because only just six of the patients were in the six-to-12-month age group.

The children’s language development skills were tested with the widely used Reynell Developmental Language Scales. Speech perception was tested using the Mr. Potato Head Task, a technique developed by IU School of Medicine researchers in which an instructor covers his face with an opaque screen and asks the child to do various tasks with the toy.

The Svirsky and Holt study may help doctors and families decide when to proceed with a child’s cochlear implant. It may also help answer a question that would otherwise require what Dr. Svirsky calls a "forbidden experiment" -- whether there’s an age after which children have significantly more difficulty learning language and speech perception skills.

The experiment -- forbidden because it would be unethical -- would involve depriving children of all contact with language for different periods of time, then testing how well they were able to learn such skills afterward.

The study by Drs. Svirsky and Holt provides evidence that there’s a sensitive period for language development that starts at about age two.

"It’s not an exact model of development in children born with normal hearing. We restore imperfect hearing," said Dr. Svirsky. "This is an indirect way of exploring the issue of sensitive periods."

Although the younger children gained language development faster, Drs. Svirsky and Holt did not find a similar effect for speech perception skills. Gains in speech perception were more or less uniform for children implanted at any age before four. That suggests that if there is a sensitive period for speech perception, it may start later than age four, Dr. Svirsky said.

Drs. Svirsky and Holt will be presenting their findings Monday, May 16, 2005, at a joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the Canadian Acoustical Association in Vancouver, Canada. Their research was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Eric Schoch | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Diagnoses: When Are Several Opinions Better Than One?
19.07.2016 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht High in calories and low in nutrients when adolescents share pictures of food online
07.04.2016 | University of Gothenburg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>