Children with early cochlear implants have normal language development
MedWire News: Deaf children who have cochlear implants (CIs) fitted between the age of 8 and 35 months have similar language development to their hearing peers, suggest study findings.
"Advancements in prelinguistic vocal development… are considered foundational for acquiring a mature phonological system," explain David Ertmer and Jongmin Jung from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
"Such advancements are also likely to be among the first observable indications of improved hearing sensitivity in deaf children who receive cochlear implants (CIs) as infants or toddlers."
To assess whether children with CIs have impaired language development compared with their hearing, typically developing peers, Ertmer and Jung recruited 13 initially deaf children who had CIs fitted between the age of 8 and 35 months and 11 similarly aged "control" children with normal language development and hearing.
The researchers videoed and audio-recorded adult-child play interactions at 3-monthly intervals. The degree of speech development achieved by each child during these interactions was recorded and utterances were categorized as: Precanonical Vocalizations, Basic Canonical Syllables, and Advanced Form vocalizations, depending on their degree of maturity.
The Stark Assessment of Early Vocal Development-Revised, a previously validated method of testing whether children have normal linguistic development for their age, was used to evaluate prelinguistic language development in the participating children.
The researchers found that the children with CIs had good language development and met the 20% criterion for developing the Basic Canonical Syllables and Advanced Form vocalizations with fewer months of robust hearing experience than the control children (mean 3 vs 12 months and 6-9 vs 16-20 months, respectively).
Most of the children with CIs had a normal or near-normal sequence of prelinguistic language development for their age according to the Stark Assessment of Early Vocal Development-Revised.
"The relatively rapid progress of the CI children suggests that an earlier period of auditory deprivation did not have negative consequences for prelinguistic vocal development," write the authors in the Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education.
"It also supports the notion that young CI recipients' comparatively advanced maturity facilitated expeditious auditory-guided speech development."
Ertmer and Jung: "Our on-going research will continue to examine vocal development, early phonological development, and expressive vocabulary gains through the first 2 years of CI experience."
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By Helen Albert