Listen up: children with early identified hearing loss achieve age-appropriate speech/language outcomes by 3 years-of-age.Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 2012 Dec; 76(12):1785-94.IJ
Age-appropriate speech/language outcomes for children with early identified hearing loss are a possibility but not a certainty. Identification of children most likely to achieve optimal outcomes is complicated by the heterogeneity of the children involved in outcome research, who present with a range of malleable (e.g. age of identification and cochlear implantation, type of intervention, communication mode) and non-malleable (e.g. degree of hearing loss) factors. This study considered whether a homogenous cohort of early identified children (≤ 12 months), with all severities of hearing loss and no other concomitant diagnoses could not only significantly outperform a similarly homogenous cohort of children who were later identified (>12 months to <5 years), but also achieve and maintain age-appropriate speech/language outcomes by 3, 4 and 5 years of age.
A mixed prospective/retrospective comparative study of a homogenous cohort of 45 early identified (≤ 12 months) and 49 late identified (> 12 months to < 5 years) children with hearing loss was conducted. The children all attended the same oral auditory-verbal early intervention programme. Speech/language assessments standardized on typically developing hearing children were conducted at 3, 4 and 5 years of age.
The early identified children significantly outperformed the late identified at all ages and for all severities of HL. By 3 years of age, 93% of all early identified participants scored within normal limits (WNL) for speech; 90% were WNL for understanding vocabulary; and 95% were WNL for receptive and expressive language. Progress was maintained and improved so that by 5 years of age, 96% were WNL for speech, with 100% WNL for language.
This study found that most children with all severities of hearing loss and no other concomitant diagnosed condition, who were early diagnosed; received amplification by 3 months; enrolled into AV intervention by 6 months and received a cochlear implant by 18 months if required, were able to "keep up with" rather than "catch up to" their typically hearing peers by 3 years of age on measures of speech and language, including children with profound hearing loss. By 5 years, all children achieved typical language development and 96% typical speech.