Objectives: The purpose of this study was to document the performance of a group of children with moderately severe to severe hearing loss who use hearing aids on a range of speech recognition, speech-language, and literacy measures and to compare these results to children with severe to profound hearing loss, who have learned language through cochlear implants.
Methods: This study involved 41 children with bilateral sensorineural hearing impairment, aged 6-18 years. Twenty children had moderately severe/severe hearing loss and used hearing aids, and 21 had severe to profound hearing loss and used cochlear implants. Communication and academic skills were assessed using speech recognition tests and standardized measures of speech production, language, phonology, and literacy.
Results: The two groups did not differ in their open-set speech recognition abilities or speech production skills. However, children with hearing aids obtained higher scores than their peers with cochlear implants in the domains of receptive vocabulary, language, phonological memory, and reading comprehension. The findings also indicate that children with moderately severe or severe hearing loss can develop spoken language skills that are within the range expected for normal hearing children.
Conclusions: School-aged children with moderately severe and severe hearing loss performed better in several domains than their peers with profound hearing loss who received cochlear implants between age 2 and 5 years. Further research is required to evaluate the benefits of hearing aids and cochlear implants in children with hearing loss who are diagnosed and receive intervention within the first year of life.