Long-Term Language Development in Children With Early Simultaneous Bilateral Cochlear Implants

Ear Hear. 2020 Sep/Oct;41(5):1294-1305. doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000851.


Objectives: This longitudinal study followed the language development of children who received the combination of early (5 to 18 months) and simultaneous bilateral cochlear implants (CIs) throughout the first 6 years after implantation. It examined the trajectories of their language development and identified factors associated with language outcomes.

Design: Participants were 21 Norwegian children who received bilateral CIs between the ages of 5 and 18 mo and 21 children with normal hearing (NH) who were matched to the children with CIs on age, sex, and maternal education. The language skills of these two groups were compared at 10 time points (3, 6, 9, 12, 18, 24, 36, 48, 60, and 72 months after implantation) using parent reports and standardized measures of general language skills, vocabulary, and grammar. In addition, assessments were made of the effects of age at CI activation, speech recognition abilities, and mothers' education on language outcomes 6 years after implantation.

Results: During the first 4 years after implantation, the gap in general expressive and receptive language abilities between children with CIs and children with NH gradually closed. While at the initial five to six assessments (3 to 36 months after implantation), significant differences between children with CIs and children with NH were observed; at 4 years after implantation, there were no longer any significant group differences in general language skills and most children with CIs achieved scores within 1 SD of the tests' normative means. From 2 to 3 years after implantation onward, expressive vocabulary and receptive grammar skills of children with CIs were similar to those of the reference group. However, from 4 years after implantation until the end of the observation period, 6 years after implantation, expressive grammar skills of children with CIs were lower than those of children with NH. In addition, a gap in receptive vocabulary appeared and grew increasingly larger from 4 to 6 years postimplantation. At the final assessment, the children with CIs had an average receptive vocabulary score around 1 SD below the normative mean. Regression analysis indicated that the children's language outcomes at 6 years after implantation were related to their speech recognition skills, age at CI activation, and maternal education.

Conclusions: In the first 4 years after implantation, the language performance of children with CIs became increasingly similar to that of their NH peers. However, between 4 and 6 years after implantation, there were indications of challenges with certain aspects of language, specifically receptive vocabulary and expressive grammar. Because these challenges first appeared after the 4-year assessment, the findings underline the importance of long-term language intervention to increase the chances of a continued language development comparable to that of NH peers. They also indicate that there is a need for comprehensive longitudinal studies of the language development of children with CIs beyond 4 years after implantation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cochlear Implantation*
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Deafness* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Language Development
  • Language Tests
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Vocabulary