The latest study conducted in Australia suggests that permanent hearing loss in children should be met with early help in the form of hearing aids or implants to help them develop better language skills later in life.
The study analyzed the language abilities of children who got interventions at different times in their lives and compared the data. It turns out that the children who got help at age 2 had significantly worse results than those who had implants as babies.
Teresa Ching of the National Acoustic Laboratories Australian Hearing and the HEARing Cooperative Research Center in Australia commented: “Access to auditory cues in speech and language paves the way for language learning. The shorter the period of deprived access to sounds, which would be non-existent in the case with normal hearing, the higher likelihood for the child with hearing loss to develop language that is on par with his/her normal-hearing peers.”
Australia has set a standard for screening newborns for hearing loss, along with a big portion of the developed world. This is all in an attempt to catch it early when the biggest benefits can be applied to those children, according to research.
However, this does not pan out like that in practice. There is still too much variation in the times when kids around the world receive their first hearing aids and this is certainly not a unilateral decision or a standard.
Dornan, who wasn’t involved in the study, commented by email: “When a child with hearing loss receives appropriate hearing aids, the pathway to the brain is unlocked, allowing sound to reach the listening part of the brain,” Dornan, who wasn’t involved in the study. This opens the possibility for the rudimentary brain circuitry for listening that the baby is born with to change from little rutted country lanes into six-lane freeways, and sound messages can quickly reach the brain and be interpreted. If a child does not receive hearing aids until later, the listening brain is not optimally developed and the listening, understanding and acting/speaking cycle is laborious and slow.”