How Does a Cochlear Implant Benefit Deaf Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder?

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“Our results add to the growing body of evidence that cochlear implantation benefits deaf children with autism spectrum disorder,” said senior author Nancy Young, MD, Medical Director of Audiology and Cochlear Implant Programs at Lurie Children’s and a Professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

According to recent estimates, one in 88 children in the US have ASD, a complex developmental disorder characterized by impaired communication and social interaction. Twenty-five to 30 percent of normal-hearing children with ASD do not develop spoken language as a means of communication.

Therefore, children with ASD in combination with profound hearing loss have two conditions that may limit the development of spoken language. Not surprisingly, the children in this study usually developed understanding and use of spoken language more slowly than implanted children without ASD.

Children with ASD have been reported to have a higher prevalence of sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) than children without ASD. Conversely, children with SNHL have been reported to have a higher rate of ASD than those with normal hearing.

The relationship between these two diagnoses for some of these children may be due to congenital cytomegalovirus (CMV), an infection that begins in the developing fetus that often is unrecognized after birth. It may cause hearing loss and is associated with increased incidence of ASD.

The majority (73 percent) of children in the study consistently used their cochlear implant throughout the day, of whom 45 percent developed some understanding of spoken words with hearing alone (no visual cues).

Forty-five percent also used spoken language to some degree as part of their overall communication. Eighty-six percent were reported by parents to have improved social engagement after implantation.

Diagnosis after implantation is likely related to the young age at which most received their implant, and to increased difficulty diagnosing ASD when significant hearing loss is present.

Understanding the range of outcomes in this population is important for counseling parents and educators to ensure that these children receive appropriate support and services.

Source: Medindia

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