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Cochlear Implants Linked to an Increased Risk of Cognitive Problems

Children who need cochlear implants have five times a higher risk of cognitive delays than normal children, a new study has found. Problems like conceptual learning, working memory and controlled attention are found among the deaf children with these devices as found by the researchers.

73 children who received an implant before attaining age of seven and 78 children with normal hearing were examined by the researchers from Indiana University for the study.

“In this study, about one-third to one-half of children with cochlear implants were found to be at-risk for delays in areas of parent-rated executive functioning such as concept formation, memory, controlled attention and planning. This rate was 2 to 5 times greater than that seen in normal-hearing children,” lead study author William G. Kronenberger, Ph.D., professor of clinical psychology in psychiatry at the IU School of Medicine, explained.

Cochlear Implants for Deaf Children may Increase Risk of Cognitive Problems Photo Credits: Flickr

Cochlear Implants for Deaf Children may Increase Risk of Cognitive Problems
Photo Credits: Flickr

Researchers hope that their findings could lead to interventions for children with cochlear implants as earlier implantation could provide possible solutions.

“The ultimate goal of our department’s research with cochlear implants has always been to influence higher-level neurocognitive functioning,” Richard T. Miyamoto, M.D., chair of the IU School of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, added. “Much of the success we have seen to date clearly relates to the brain’s ability to process an incomplete signal. The current research will further assist in identifying gaps in our knowledge.”

Cochlear implants produce remarkable gains in spoken language and other neurocognitive skills, but there is a certain amount of learning and catch-up that needs to take place with children who have experienced a hearing loss prior to cochlear implantation,” Dr. Kronenberger concluded. “So far, most of the interventions to help with this learning have focused on speech and language. Our findings show a need to identify and help some children in certain domains of executive functioning as well.”

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