Cochlear implants are beneficial even for children with developmental delays. Some physicians have made the argument that children who are developmentally delayed will have a limited ability to use or understand oral communication. Due to this limitation, some physicians believe that cochlear implants are unnecessary for this patient population. According to the USC press release, some insurance companies have traditionally denied coverage under the belief that cochlear implants will not help this demographic learn to communicate.
Led by Dr. John Oghalai from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, this study gathered about 200 deaf patients form Texas and California. All the participants started with hearing aids. The study continued to follow the participants that received a cochlear implant. They then separated these children into three following different groups:
Cohort 1: Normal cognition and adaptive behavior + cochlear implantation
Cohort 2: Low cognition and adaptive behavior* + cochlear implantation
Cohort 3: Low cognition and adaptive behavior* + hearing aid
*Causes of low cognition and adaptive behavior may include genetic variation or infants born premature.
The researchers then followed these groups for about two years to track their progress. They found that Cohort 3 did worse than Cohort 1 and 2 in all assessments. Assessments looked at cognitive, auditory, and adaptive behavioral skills. In fact, the implanted children from Cohort 2 showed about 25 percent improvement compared to the deaf children with hearing aids in Cohort 3. Interestingly, they also found that stress between the parent and child was much higher for the Cohort 3. This is likely due to the barrier of clear communication.
“This study demonstrates that deaf children with developmental impairment should not be overlooked in getting cochlear implants.”
“This study demonstrates that deaf children with developmental impairment should not be overlooked in getting cochlear implants,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Oghalai, an otolaryngologist at Keck Medicine of USC. “Cochlear implantation should be considered regardless of the presence of learning delays so all children can develop to their maximum potential.”