Children with hearing loss benefit from early verbal comprehension intervention
MedWire News: Children with congenital hearing loss (HL) who have access to early intervention (EI) at 3 months of age or younger have better verbal comprehension at the age of 5 years than those who have later access.
"Children with congenital HL are at an increased risk of speech and language delays compared to hearing peers extending from early childhood to school age," write Betty Vohr (Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, USA) and colleagues.
Studies suggest that early identification and EI, in the form of specialist parent and child training, counseling, and advice from speech therapists, audiologists, and physicians, can help improve the detrimental effects of HL on language development and comprehension.
Vohr and team evaluated the effects of age at enrollment in EI and severity of HL on language ability and resource requirements of preschool children (5 years of age) with congenital HL (n=29). The children with HL were compared with hearing children of a similar age to assess the differences in their language abilities (n=74).
The team found that children with HL who were enrolled in EI at 3 months of age or younger (n=13) achieved significantly higher Reynell verbal comprehension and expressive language scores than those enrolled in EI when older than 3 months of age (n=16), at 86.6 versus 70.3 and 92.1 versus 80.5, respectively.
When the hearing and HL children were compared at the age of 5 years, the children with HL had significantly lower verbal comprehension and expressive language scores than hearing children, at 77.6 versus 94.8 and 85.9 versus 97.4, respectively.
Following adjustment for degree of HL, Vohr and co-workers calculated that having access to EI at 3 months or younger resulted in a significant 13.8-point higher mean verbal comprehension score for children with HL at 5 years of age than having later access to EI.
The authors concede that their study was small and therefore suggest that further work should be carried out to confirm their findings.
Writing in Early Human Development, they conclude: "An individualized education plan, appropriate supports, and longitudinal assessments of hearing status are needed to assure that all children identified with HL at birth or in the first five years of life have the opportunity to reach their potential. Our findings continue to support the benefits of early identification and EI for children with HL."
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By Helen Albert