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Cochlear Implants at Early Age Help Link Sight, Sound Stimuli

Study suggest implants should be provided earlier


MONDAY, Dec. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Children who receive cochlear implants at an early age are more likely to acquire the ability to perceive speech by linking visual information from lip movements with auditory stimuli, according to a report published Dec. 5 online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Eric I. Knudsen, Ph.D., of Stanford University School of Medicine, and colleagues tested this bimodal perception in 36 children, ages 5 to 14, who were deaf from birth but had cochlear implants for at least one year. In most individuals, speech perception is a combination of auditory and visual stimuli.

When visual and auditory stimulation conflicted, 92% of children with cochlear implants relied on visual perception. The authors found 20% of children with cochlear implants demonstrated consistent bimodal fusion, compared with 57% of children with normal hearing. All of the children who received implants prior to 30 months of age had consistent bimodal fusion, while those who had implants later in life had inconsistent or no bimodal fusion.

These results combined with previous studies "argue strongly for screening children for hearing capabilities and providing cochlear implants when necessary at the earliest possible ages," the authors conclude.

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