To investigate the effect of age at cochlear implantation on the auditory development of children younger than 3 years and to compare these children's auditory development with that of peers with normal hearing.
Using a repeated-measures paradigm, auditory skill development was evaluated before and 3, 6, and 12 months after implantation. Data were compared with previously published data from cohorts with normal hearing.
One hundred seven hearing-impaired children (age range, 12-36 months) who received a cochlear implant during clinical trials in North America.
Main Outcome Measure
Auditory skill development was assessed using the Infant-Toddler Meaningful Auditory Integration Scale, a tool that provides a quantitative measure in children as young as newborns.
Infants and toddlers who receive implants show rapid improvement in auditory skills during the first year of device use regardless of age at implantation, although younger children achieve higher scores. Children who undergo implantation at a younger age acquire auditory skills nearer to those of their peers with normal hearing at a younger age. The mean rate of acquisition of auditory skills is similar to that of infants and toddlers with normal hearing regardless of age at implantation.
Performing implantation in children with profound hearing loss at the youngest age possible allows the best opportunity for them to acquire communication skills that approximate those of their peers with normal hearing.