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October 9, 2005

Ear implants may benefit deaf infants

From: Ninemsn - Sydney,New South Wales,Australia - Oct 9, 2005

Cochlear implantation, which involves placing an electronic device into the inner ear, can be safely done in hearing impaired children before their first birthday and leads to age-appropriate hearing ability and oral language skills, a report suggests.

Initial reports of children receiving cochlear implants before 18 months of age have suggested that early implantation is of benefit, authors Dr Susan Waltzman and Dr Thomas Roland note in their report, published in the medical journal Paediatrics.

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.

To evaluate the safety and benefits of this procedure, the researchers, based at the New York University School of Medicine, 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 per cent accuracy.

Moreover, the authors add, "Preliminary reports from therapists and teachers indicate that all children are developing speech and language skills with a natural-sounding voice."

They conclude: "We can say that 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.

©AAP 2005
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