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Children with hearing loss benefit from early interventions :

August 3, 2017

Children with permanent hearing loss developed better language skills the earlier they started interventions, researcher found.

The impact was especially true for those with worse hearing, according to the study “Age at Intervention for Permanent Hearing Loss and 5-year Language Outcomes” (Ching TYC, et al. Pediatrics. Aug. 3, 2017,

Roughly one to two of every 1,000 newborns experience bilateral permanent childhood hearing loss (PCHL). AAP Early Hearing Detection and Intervention guidelines call for screening by 1 month of age, diagnosis of hearing loss by 3 months of age and early intervention services by 6 months.

To look more closely at interventions, researchers studied 350 children in Australia with PCHL who had received a hearing aid or cochlear implant by age 3. They compared the group to 120 children with normal hearing.

At age 5 or 6, children were tested on their language and communication skills by a speech pathologist. Parents also described their children’s language skills.

Children who started amplification at 3 months had significantly better language skills than those who started at 24 months, according to the study. Those with 70 decibel hearing level benefited even more than those with 50 decibel hearing level.

Likewise, those who received cochlear implants at 6 months developed better language than those implanted at 24 months. Both groups saw the same effects even when controlling for demographic variables.

Roughly 72% of children in the study who had a universal newborn hearing screening (UNHS) started hearing amplification before 6 months, while only 32% of the unscreened children did so. However, researchers found “insufficient evidence to conclude that UNHS is beneficial.”

“The diminished effect size of UNHS compared to that of age at intervention is likely because even though UNHS maximizes the opportunity of early intervention, not all screened children commenced amplification early, and not all unscreened children commenced amplification late,” authors wrote.

They called for timely interventions for children with PCHL and more research on the long-term impacts.

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