Purpose: The purpose of the present investigation is to differentiate children using cochlear implants (CIs) who did or did not achieve age-appropriate language scores by midelementary grades and to identify risk factors for persistent language delay following early cochlear implantation.
Materials and method: Children receiving unilateral CIs at young ages (12-38 months) were tested longitudinally and classified with normal language emergence (n = 19), late language emergence (n = 22), or persistent language delay (n = 19) on the basis of their test scores at 4.5 and 10.5 years of age. Relative effects of demographic, audiological, linguistic, and academic characteristics on language emergence were determined.
Results: Age at CI was associated with normal language emergence but did not differentiate late emergence from persistent delay. Children with persistent delay were more likely to use left-ear implants and older speech processor technology. They experienced higher aided thresholds and lower speech perception scores. Persistent delay was foreshadowed by low morphosyntactic and phonological diversity in preschool. Logistic regression analysis predicted normal language emergence with 84% accuracy and persistent language delay with 74% accuracy.
Conclusion: CI characteristics had a strong effect on persistent versus resolving language delay, suggesting that right-ear (or bilateral) devices, technology upgrades, and improved audibility may positively influence long-term language outcomes.