Younger Age at Cochlear Implant Activation Results in Improved Auditory Skill Development for Children With Congenital Deafness

J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2022 Sep 12;65(9):3539-3547. doi: 10.1044/2022_JSLHR-22-00039. Epub 2022 Aug 24.


Purpose: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration indications for cochlear implantation in children is currently 9 months of age and older for children with bilateral profound sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL). Studies have shown that earlier activation of a cochlear implant (CI) can lead to better spoken language outcomes. As auditory skills are a precursor to the development of spoken language, this study was developed to investigate the influence of age at CI activation on auditory skill acquisition in young children. A secondary aim was to describe the auditory skills of children implanted prior to 9 months of age as compared to children with older ages of activation.

Method: Functional Listening Index (FLI) scores obtained during routine clinical visits were reviewed for 78 pediatric CI recipients with congenital bilateral profound hearing loss who were activated before 2 years of age. A linear mixed-effects model assessed the effect of age at CI activation on cumulative FLI scores over time.

Results: There was a significant interaction between age at activation and chronological age at the time of evaluation, indicating that children with earlier access to sound achieved a greater number of auditory skills than those with later CI activations when measured at the same chronological age. Children activated before the age of 9 months approximated scores expected of children with typical hearing, whereas children activated between 9 and 24 months of age did not.

Conclusions: Younger age at CI activation is associated with increased auditory skills over time. Children who undergo cochlear implantation and CI activation before 9 months achieve more auditory skills by 4 years of age than children who are activated at later ages. These data suggest that reducing the approved age at cochlear implantation for children with congenital bilateral profound SNHL may support optimal auditory skill acquisition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cochlear Implantation* / methods
  • Cochlear Implants*
  • Deafness* / rehabilitation
  • Deafness* / surgery
  • Hearing Loss, Bilateral / rehabilitation
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural* / rehabilitation
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural* / surgery
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language Development