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December 8, 2006

Early help gives gift of gab

From: Courier Mail - Australia - Dec 8, 2006

Janelle Miles

DEAF children develop normal language skills by primary school if they receive a cochlear implant before 12 months of age, an Australian study has found.

University of Melbourne researchers studied 100 children who were implanted with the Australian-developed bionic ear between the ages of six months and two years.

"Those implanted under 12 months, their language skills . . . are as good as normal hearing children," said Professor Richard Dowell, head of the university's cochlear implant team.

"Those implanted after 12 months of age are not doing quite as well.

"Even though babies don't do much talking in the first year there's a lot of evidence suggesting that there's a lot going on, their brain is wired up ready to create the building blocks of language and communication."

University student Sian Neame, who was the youngest child at the time to receive a cochlear implant in 1990 when she was two, speaks normally.

The bionic ear was invented by Graeme Clark, now 72, and was first implanted in 1978.

© Queensland Newspapers.