Objective: Children with hearing loss who use cochlear implants have lower quality of life (QoL) in social situations and lower self-esteem than hearing peers. The child's QoL has been assessed primarily by asking the parent rather than asking the child. This poses a problem because parents have difficulty judging less observable aspects like self-esteem and socio-emotional functioning, the domains most affected by hearing loss.
Methods: This case-control study evaluated QoL in 50 preschoolers using a cochlear implant and their parents with the Kiddy KINDL(®), an established QoL measure. Children's responses were compared to a hearing control group and correlated with demographic variables. We used a questionnaire for parents and a face-to-face interview with children. T-tests were used to compare (a) paired parent-child ratings and (b) children with cochlear implants versus normal hearing. Pearson rank correlations were used to compare QoL with demographic variables.
Results: Children using cochlear implants rated overall QoL significantly more positively than their parents (M(Difference)=4.22, p=.03). Child rating of QoL did not differ significantly by auditory status (cochlear implant (82.8) vs. hearing (80.8), p=.42). Overall QoL correlated inversely with cochlear implant experience and chronologic age, but did not correlate with implantation age.
Conclusions: Preschool children using cochlear implants can assess adequately their own QoL, but parents afford valuable complementary perspective on the child's socio-emotional and physical well-being. Preschool children using cochlear implants rate overall QoL measures similar to hearing peers. A constellation of QoL measures should be collected to yield a better understanding of general QoL as well as specific domains centered on hearing loss.