Context: Cochlear implantation is a surgical alternative to traditional amplification (hearing aids) that can facilitate spoken language development in young children with severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).
Objective: To prospectively assess spoken language acquisition following cochlear implantation in young children.
Design, setting, and participants: Prospective, longitudinal, and multidimensional assessment of spoken language development over a 3-year period in children who underwent cochlear implantation before 5 years of age (n = 188) from 6 US centers and hearing children of similar ages (n = 97) from 2 preschools recruited between November 2002 and December 2004. Follow-up completed between November 2005 and May 2008.
Main outcome measures: Performance on measures of spoken language comprehension and expression (Reynell Developmental Language Scales).
Results: Children undergoing cochlear implantation showed greater improvement in spoken language performance (10.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 9.6-11.2 points per year in comprehension; 8.4; 95% CI, 7.8-9.0 in expression) than would be predicted by their preimplantation baseline scores (5.4; 95% CI, 4.1-6.7, comprehension; 5.8; 95% CI, 4.6-7.0, expression), although mean scores were not restored to age-appropriate levels after 3 years. Younger age at cochlear implantation was associated with significantly steeper rate increases in comprehension (1.1; 95% CI, 0.5-1.7 points per year younger) and expression (1.0; 95% CI, 0.6-1.5 points per year younger). Similarly, each 1-year shorter history of hearing deficit was associated with steeper rate increases in comprehension (0.8; 95% CI, 0.2-1.2 points per year shorter) and expression (0.6; 95% CI, 0.2-1.0 points per year shorter). In multivariable analyses, greater residual hearing prior to cochlear implantation, higher ratings of parent-child interactions, and higher socioeconomic status were associated with greater rates of improvement in comprehension and expression.
Conclusion: The use of cochlear implants in young children was associated with better spoken language learning than would be predicted from their preimplantation scores.