New research by Percy-Smith et al (2017) investigates the impact of different early interventions on speech-language outcomes for children who receive cochlear implants (CI) in the first year.

Set in Denmark, where Auditory Verbal (AV) therapy is now government funded and offered to all deaf children with bilateral hearing loss of 40dB or above, Percy-Smith et al investigate the outcomes of children with CIs who have followed standard habilitation, provided by the local or regional speech and hearing therapist. These outcomes are then compared to children following a 3-year AV intervention by trained AV practitioners.

The study identified factors associated with the level of language understanding, the level of receptive and active vocabulary and whether the type of intervention would better help achieve age appropriate language.

A total of 130 children took part in the study and the study used three measures of speech and language outcomes. Children following the AV intervention outperformed children in standard habilitation on all three tests of speech and language. AV intervention was more important than parental educational status, age at implantation and aetiology of hearing loss in the development of good spoken language.

These results add to the existing literature documenting the importance of parental involvement and engagement in the (re)habilitation both prior and post cochlear implantation, as well as adding to the ongoing debate about intervention for deaf children (Archbold, 2010; Knoors and Marschark, 2012). The results substantiate the importance of providing medico-surgical and technical intervention followed by a specialised intervention for deaf children, such as AV therapy.

More deaf children than ever before have the potential for acquiring spoken language.

-Percy-smith et al., 2017

The ever growing literature shows us that by pulling together surgical and therapeutic resources, the ability to listen, understand and to have good spoken language are justified benchmarks for most congenitally deaf children. It is sobering that in the UK, the National Deaf Children’s Society estimates that two-thirds of deaf children arrive at primary school having not achieved a good level of development in the early years (NDCS, 2017). It’s time to start listening.

Read the full study here.

Percy-Smith, L., Tønning, T. L., Josvassen, J. L., Mikkelsen, J. H., Nissen, L., Dieleman, E., ... & Cayé-Thomasen, P. (2017). Auditory verbal habilitation is associated with improved outcome for children with cochlear implant. Cochlear Implants International, 1-8.

Archbold, S. (2010). Deaf education: changed by cochlear implantation? Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen.

Knoors, H., & Marschark, M. (2012). Language planning for the 21st century: Revisiting bilingual language policy for deaf children. The Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education17 (3), 291-305.

NDCS. (2017). Note on Department for Education figures on attainment for deaf children in 2016 (England).