Objective: Describe the long-term benefits of early cochlear implantation. Provide a comprehensive description of outcomes, including: language, speech production, and speech perception. Compare the communication outcomes for the early implanted children to those of normally hearing children and children who received a cochlear implant at a comparatively older age.
Method: Retrospective review of the communication development of 35 children implanted between 6 and 12 months of age and 85 children implanted between 13 and 24 months of age. Audiologic assessments included unaided and aided audiograms, auditory brainstem response (ABR), auditory steady state response (ASSR), and otoacoustic emissons (OAEs). Formal language, speech production, and speech perception measures were administered, preimplant and at 1, 2, 3, and 5 years postimplant.
Results: The children who received their cochlear implant by 12 months of age demonstrated language growth rates equivalent to their normally hearing peers and achieved age appropriate receptive language scores 3 years postimplant. The children who received their cochlear implant between 13 and 24 months demonstrated a significant language delay at 3 years postimplant. Speech production development followed a similar pattern to that of normal-hearing children, although was delayed, for both groups of children. Mean open-set speech perception scores were comparable with previous reports for children and adults who use cochlear implants.
Conclusion: Children implanted by 12 months of age demonstrate better language development compared with children who receive their cochlear implant between 13 and 24 months. This supports the provision of a cochlear implant within the first year of life to enhance the likelihood that a child with severe-to-profound hearing impairment will commence elementary school with age-appropriate language skills.