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June 30, 2004

Kids MD - Early Cochlear Implants

From: WTOC, GA - Jun 30, 2004

Yvette J. Brown | CWK Network

We know if we can get that sound sensation into a child at those early ages, we can take advantage of the ripeness of those critical periods for developing speech and language.
- Cindy Gary, Audiologist -

Four-year-old Chelseas favorite book is about airplanes. She loves to listen to her mother read it. The surprise is that Chelsea is completely deaf. She was diagnosed shortly after birth, and her parents immediately began to worry.

What would that mean? Jennifer Reiser, Chelseas mother, remembers wondering. There are all kinds of implications of deafness. You start to realize that if you dont hear you cant learn words, you cant learn all kinds of things.

But there was hope for Chelsea. When she was one, she received a cochlear implant -- a surgically implantable device that provides hearing sensation to individuals with severe to profound hearing loss.

It helps me hear, Chelsea explains. If I take it out I cant hear somebody.

The implant also helps Chelsea speak, and learn.

While Chelsea may seem young for a hearing implant, research in the Archives of Otolaryngology found that the earlier deaf children get implants, the better.

There are certain critical windows in time that have been identified for learning various skills, and the speech and language skills occur at a very early age -- age three and younger, explains audiologist Cindy Gary. So we know if we can get that sound sensation into a child at those early ages, we can take advantage of those critical periods.

In one study, 16 percent of kids who received cochlear implants at age four had normal language skills by age eight. But three times that many kids had normal language if they received the implants at age two.

The research isnt clear if getting implants younger than two is also beneficial, but the Food and Drug Administration has approved the device for one-year-olds, the age at which Chelsea received hers.

Today, Chelseas language skills are comparable to hearing children her age. And next year, shell go to regular kindergarten. Her mother believes that Chelseas progress is connected to receiving the implant early.

As a mother, Reiser urges other parents, Dont wait! Im telling you, its gonna be harder for that kid and theyre gonna struggle and youre gonna struggle cause you waited. Let the kids hear. Let them speak. Let them understand language. Theres so much to learn.

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