- Published on 31 January 2018
A new study has found that children with hearing loss who receive cochlear implants learn words faster than children with hearing. These findings are in contrast with what had been thought until now.
The study was carried out at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, Germany and the University Medical Center Dresden, also in Germany. The findings were unexpected: “We observed that when deaf children get their implants, they learn words faster than those with normal hearing. Consequently, they build up certain word pools faster”, explains Niki Vavatzanidis, first author on the study and researcher at MPI CBS and the University Medical Center Dresden.
Under normal circumstances, children need about 14 months to reliably recognize that known objects are not named correctly. In the study, children with an artificial cochlea were already able to do so after just 12 months, reports MedicalXpress.
The researchers have several hypotheses as to why there is a gap in the learning timescales. One reason could be that children who received cochlear implants are generally older when they are first exposed to spoken language. Children with normal hearing learn various aspects of language from birth or even in the womb. Deaf children, by contrast, only begin to hear at the time of their cochlear implantation. At this time, several brain structures needed for language acquisition are already well developed. “It is not just the memory, but also the broader knowledge about their surroundings that is more formed. They already know about objects in their environment and have accumulated non-linguistic semantic categories,” says Vavatzanidis.