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Inner ear implants benefit deaf infants

Cochlear implantation can be safely done in hearing impaired children before their first birthday and leads to age-appropriate hearing ability.

Inner ear implants benefit deaf infants

Cochlear implantation, which involves placing an electronic device into the inner ear, can be safely done in hearing impaired children before their first birthday, with good results.

Initial reports of children receiving cochlear implants before 18 months of age have suggested that early implantation is of benefit. Surgeons considering even earlier implantation face operative challenges such as reduced scalp and skull thickness. However, advances in objective testing methods to assess hearing suggest that the surgery may be feasible.

Researchers form the New York University School of Medicine, USA, followed 18 children with severe to profound hearing loss who underwent cochlear implantation at ages 6 to 11 months. There were no immediate surgical complications, although one patient required revision surgery 20 months later because of scalp breakdown and persistent infection.

Marked improvements in hearing were noted a few months after the operation and continued to accrue over time. Five patients were tested with formalised speech perception tests that required them to repeat words and phrases that they heard, and they did well, with up to 100% accuracy.

Moreover, preliminary reports from therapists and teachers indicate that all the treated children are developing speech and language skills with a natural-sounding voice. Implantation in children who are younger than 12 months can be performed safely and provides early and effective access to auditory stimuli, leading to functional benefit above what can be obtained from conventional hearing aids.

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