Children with hearing loss benefit from early interventions
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
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, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2016-4274).
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