Objectives: The primary aim was to investigate the variability in language development in children aged 5-7.5 years after bilateral cochlear implantation (CI) up to the age of 2 years, and any impact of the age at implantation and additional noncognitive or anatomical disorders at implantation.
Design: Data of 84 congenitally deaf children that had received simultaneous bilateral CI at the age of ≤ 24 months were included in this retrospective study. The results of language comprehension acquisition were evaluated using a standardized German language acquisition test for normal hearing preschoolers and first graders. Data on speech perception of monosyllables and sentences in quiet and noise were added.
Results: In a monosyllabic test, the children achieved a median performance of 75.0 ± 12.88%. In the sentence test in quiet, the median performance was 89 ± 12.69%, but dropped to 54 ± 18.92% in noise. A simple analysis showed a significant main effect of age at implantation on monosyllabic word comprehension (p < .001), but no significant effect of comorbidities that lacked cognitive effects (p = .24). Language acquisition values correspond to the normal range of children with normal hearing. Approximately 25% of the variability in the language acquisition tests is due to the outcome of the monosyllabic speech perception test.
Conclusions: Congenitally deaf children who were fitted bilaterally in the 1st year of life can develop age-appropriate language skills by the time they start school. The high variability in the data is partly due to the age of implantation, but additional factors such as cognitive factors (e.g., working memory) are likely to influence the variability.