Improved complex language skills in children with cochlear implants

Research

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© M.V.L.

The significant positive effects of cochlear implants (CIs) on spoken language development are well documented, even though there is wide variability in language outcomes in these children.

Most existing studies on this specific skill, carried out in children with severe hearing loss using CIs, have focused on abilities that develop early, for example vocabulary. A group of researchers from Belgium and the Netherlands recently carried out a study in 66 deaf school-aged children compared to matched hearing peers to examine narrative capabilities, a more complex skill that develops later on.

Studying narrative production is important because this skill serves as a comprehensive measure of spoken language, according to the investigators. It provides information on discourse, semantics, syntax, working memory and general knowledge base, since all these components are needed to form a meaningful structured story. Narrative skills are also a strong predictor of written language abilities.

Children included in the study were asked to retell a standardized story presented to them with picture supports. Sign language cues used by the children when recounting were not included in the scoring process. Overall analysis of all children in the study showed good results on quantity and coherence, but significant problems in quality, content and efficiency. However, a high-potential subgroup (n=20) consisting of children without additional disabilities who received bilateral cochlear implantation before the age of 2 years, and raised with one spoken language, did not differ from matched peers, except for the percentage of incorrect utterances.

Source: Boons T, et al. Narrative spoken language skills in severely hearing impaired school-aged children with cochlear implants. Research in developmental disabilities. 2013 Sep 9;34(11):3833-3846

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