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March 8, 2005

How cochlear implants work in kids

From: News 14 Carolina - Raleigh,NC,USA - Mar 8, 2005

By: Ivanhoe Newswire

One in every one thousand children born will join the ranks of the six million Americans who live with profound deafness.

Cochlear implants can now be used to give hearing to a child born without it, but just how well do those implants work?

Three-year-old Trenton acts. Well, like about any other three-year-old. But he's unique.

"We did three tests and then, you know, finally did our own test at home and everything with balloon popping, and we finally realized that he was deaf," Matt Thompson, Trentons dad, stated.

When he turned two, Trenton got a cochlear implant to give him the ability to hear.

Researcher Derek Houston works with kids like Trenton to test those implants. His is the first lab in the world to use behavioral methods to assess language in deaf infants.

"We're really on the cutting edge of developing these techniques and making them robust and reliable, such that we can take an individual infant and really assess what they're doing at any particular time," Houston explained.

Houston compares hearing infants like Evelyn to kids with cochlear implants. He tracks how long kids look at an object when new sounds are introduced.

Houston found kids who had implants before they turned a year old performed like normal hearing kids on a language test.

That wasn't true for those who got them later. He said this research may help tailor therapy. Trenton's dad knows he's in the right hands.

"If they can't tell in detail how well the infants are learning what they're trying to teach them, then they're not going to know if the way that they're teaching is going down the right path or the wrong path," Houston said.

Trenton's dad knows he's in the right hands. "I want him to be just like any, have the chances of my other children, you know."

And so far, he seems to be on track.

Houston said it's been a challenge to develop techniques that assess speech perception and language skills of infants who have these implants, since they can't explain how well they hear.

He hopes research like this will act as a progress report for therapists, parents and kids alike.

Copyright ©2005 TWEAN Newschannel of Raleigh, L.L.C. dba News 14 Carolina