Objective: The objective of the study was to investigate the functions of the vestibular, tactile, visual, and proprioceptive modalities in children with prelinguistic hearing loss. Specifically, the study sought to examine evidence for the compensation hypothesis (auditory deprivation leads to enhancements in functions of other sensory systems) versus the deficiency hypothesis (functions of the spared senses are compromised as a result of auditory deprivation).
Methods: Twelve children between the ages of 5 years, 1 month and 8 years, 11 months with bilateral severe-profound hearing loss participated in the study. All children used bilateral cochlear implants. Subtests of two norm-referenced instruments, the Sensory Integration and Praxis Test and the Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration, were administered to all of the children. Mean subtest scores for children with hearing loss were compared with the mean scores for the normative group.
Results: As expected, a majority of children demonstrated vestibular dysfunction. Assessment of other modalities revealed significantly below average performance on two tasks by children with hearing loss when compared to the normative group. Both tasks involved temporal processing of tactile or proprioceptive signals. Conversely, children with hearing loss showed significantly better performance compared to the normative group for a spatial task that involved localization of a tactile stimulus. No group differences were found for any of the visual tasks.
Conclusions: Results supported both the compensation and the deficiency hypotheses. The findings have implications for both assessment and intervention of young children with hearing loss. Further investigations are necessary to replicate these findings with a more comprehensive set of measures on a larger cohort of children with prelinguistic, severe-profound hearing loss.
Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.